FUN 'N GUN: Georgetown Runs Past Providence, 74-65

USA TODAY Sports

Bad news, good news as Hoyas lose Greg Whittington indefinitely because of academic ineligibility but push the pace past the Friars to second straight win.

Too bad there's no news tonight, huh? Wednesday was an eventful night for Georgetown, first with the announcement of Greg Whittington's indefinite academic ineligibility, then with an up-and-down, but mostly up, 74-65 win over the visiting Providence Friars.

The win was Georgetown's second straight without their sophomore forward with an up-tempo offense and, at least for the first half, a stingy defense. Otto Porter led the attack, netting 20 points and gathering 8 boards before fouling out, while Markel Starks had his second straight efficient game, tallying 16 points and 7 assists, and 3 assists while leading the Hoyas' transition attack.

The Hoyas opened Wednesday's game much as they had against St. John's Saturday, finding hot hands in transition. After a few shaky possessions, Starks hit a perimeter jumper, then Porter responded to a Providence triple with one of his own. After a missed shot, Porter then made a gorgeous open-court steal which he promptly turned into a three-point play. Two more stops, the first fueled by Georgetown's press, led to another basket apiece by Porter and Starks, pushing the Hoyas' early lead to nine.

While Providence soon closed the gap to five, Georgetown hardly cooled off. Aaron Bowen, promoted from bench exile to regular reserve wing, canned a pair of rainbow threes, putting him on his way to a career-high eight points. Then, with the Friars still hanging around, Nate Lubick, who notched 10 points and 4 rebounds before fouling out, scored three straight baskets to spur a 14-3 run to end the half. There were plenty of other contributions, as the run included contributions from six Hoyas in all. All those baskets impaired Providence's transition offense, and the Friars couldn't score in the half court. By intermission, Georgetown's sizzling shooting and stout half-court defense had translated into a 38-19 lead.

The second half was far more of a mixed bag. After Georgetown twice pushed the lead to 22, the Friars came alive, finding their own opportunities in the open court. The Hoyas held Bryce Cotton, the Big East's leading scorer, to just five first-half points, but the Friar guard found his stroke after the break, netting 16 second-half points, including four three-pointers. Providence point guard Vincent Council assisted on just one basket in the first half but had seven more after the half, many on easy transition baskets.

Ultimately, though, Providence dug itself too deep of a hole. The Friars twice closed the gap to eight points, then inched as close as seven in the waning minutes after Porter exited on fouls. With Lubick already out of the game for the same reason, a shade of doubt crept into the picture. But Starks foreclosed any comeback by knocking down a few free-throws, and Bowen, resuming his familiar role, put home the game-sealing dunk.

To put it mildly, the last two games have given us a lot to think about. Georgetown's prolific early-game offense, fueled by a fast pace, has infused hope in what otherwise has been a fairly morose fan base. Porter and Starks have particularly benefited from running, upping their scoring without Whittington in the lineup. Lubick also has stepped up, continuing a fine junior season with his third pair of double-figure scoring efforts.

Whit's absence also has given plenty of run to others. Bowen in particular has been a revelation; while his energetic play occasionally leads to manic mistakes, he's clearly a competent role player that deserves run even if and when the Hoyas are back to full strength. Freshman D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera (7 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, 4 turnovers) has been good, but like Bowen, a bit mixed. DSR clearly has a nose for the ball, is a fluid distributor in transition, and is at least beginning to try on defense. But he's still learning the when and where of shot selection and consistent effort on defense, not unlike Starks two years ago.

The Hoyas have seen the perils of their new strategy and lineup as well. The defensive effort has much more uneven without Whittington, as the Hoyas yielded 46 second-half points in relatively indifferent fashion. As Georgetown learned Wednesday, an up-and-down pace against an opponent that also likes to run can produce wild swings, like Providence's 15-2 run midway through the second half.

Finally, there are uncertanties. Georgetown has enjoyed the benefit of early hot hands in the past two games, and hasn't yet had to face the situation, despite pushing the pace, the shots still aren't falling. And they've been able to test this offense against relatively modest competition, beating a pair of teams likely to finish in the conference's lower half.

Still, the early results are encouraging, with Georgetown's change of pace clearly catching its opponents off guard. There's little question that Georgetown will be far, far better in the long run with Whittington in the lineup, including at a face pace. JTIII didn't foreclose the possibility after the game, reportedly acknowledging that the sophomore could be back this season. But with two road games over the next five days, the Hoyas have little time to worry about who is unavailable. Instead, Georgetown will have to prepare for an always-tricky trip to South Florida for Saturday's tilt against the Bulls. Until then, Hoya Saxa.

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