Georgetown returned home Saturday to beat Lipscomb 70-49, overcoming news of Greg Whittington's dismissal from the team and a sluggish first half to pull away from the Bison after intermission. The uneven effort, perhaps the result of too much turkey on Thursday, revealed both Georgetown's limitations and its potential.
Hoya wins over inferior non-conference foes often are a matter of ebb and flow, and Saturday was no different. Georgetown came out of the gates quickly, with DSR and Markel Starks hitting a pair of threes to help build an early 23-12 Hoya advantage. But that large, early lead only whittled (too soon?) as the Hoyas went ice-cold on offense and relaxed on defense.
The reasons for the offensive struggles were familiar. Joshua Smith was in and out of the game after picking up his second, and then third, foul. Georgetown continued to suffer from a lack of scoring depth, as no one beyond Smith-Rivera and Starks could connect from outside. The Hoyas also struggled to penetrate through the Lipscomb zone, instead hoisting brick after brick from deep. In all, Georgetown missed 14 straight three-point attempts in the first half, allowing the Bison to creep within one entering intermission.
Halftime interrupted what might have been Northeastern 2.0. Whether it was a tongue-lashing from JT3 or an early technical foul on Smith after the half, Georgetown was a different team for the rest of the game. A rim-rattling dunk by Jabril Trawick kick-started what became a 14-point Georgetown run that blew the game open. Both Trawick and Mikael Hopkins--now the only two members of the recruiting class of 2011 on the court--found their strides after the half. Hopkins finished with 13 points, all after the half, including his second three-pointer on as many tries this season. Smith-Rivera also poured it on after the half, hitting 4 of 7 from deep en route to a game-high 17 points. In all, Georgetown connected on 56.5 percent of its shots after intermission.
The Hoyas also clamped down on Lipscomb defensively, holding the Bison scoreless for nearly 7 minutes after the break (aided by some shaky opposing free-throw shooting). When Smith's technical landed him on the bench, the more defensively adept front line of Hopkins and Nate Lubick clogged the interior, while the veteran Hoya back court forced turnovers on the perimeter. Along with foul trouble and scoring depth, defense remains among the biggest question marks for Georgetown, but a strong stretch late on Saturday was encouraging.
Saturday's result was good enough, and overshadowed before it even began by news of Greg Whittington's dismissal from the team. JT3 refused to comment after the game on Whittington and we'll have more on that once the reasons for his dismissal are given.
On the court, Georgetown struggled in ways that have become predictable, even in this young season. First on the list of miscues were fouls, which limited Smith's play Saturday. While Georgetown was a little bit less foul-happy Saturday, the Hoyas still rank in the bottom 10 nationally in foul rate. A second familiar weakness was poor outside shooting that ground the Georgetown offense to a halt. Through Saturday, Smith-Rivera (17 3FGM) and Starks (9) have hit more three-pointers than the rest of the team combined (7). Particularly against zones, Georgetown is vulnerable to prolonged droughts. Third, uneven defensive effort opened the door for Lipscomb's comeback. The absence of Otto Porter, unfavorable rule changes, and the addition of a defensive liability to the lineup all mean that Georgetown is not the defensive juggernaut of the past two seasons. Still, the second half in particular revealed the potential for these Hoyas, as Trawick and Hopkins gave a bit of scoring depth that otherwise has been lacking, Smith-Rivera found his touch from deep, and Georgetown turned the screws a bit defensively.
The win came in the first of four straight home games against opponents that are inferior but not necessarily pushovers. Next in line is High Point, which visits the Phone Booth Thursday.