Georgetown played 30 minutes of offense Saturday, riding hot outside shooting and easy transition baskets created by crisp ball movement to a 26-point advantage over American. Otto Porter turned in a double-double, leading the team with 16 points and 13 rebounds, Greg Whittington netted 13 points of his own, and the rest of the regulars each chipped in to help put the game out of reach. Then, with ten minutes remaining, the Hoyas called it a day, and some late-game lethargy let the Eagles narrow the deficit in what was otherwise a blowout.
For the third straight game, Georgetown exploited a weak opposing defense early, notching 40 first half points. Most of these opportunities came in transition and from behind the arc, where five Hoyas combined to make seven three-pointers throughout the first half. The Hoya advantage grew to double digits shortly after the first television timeout, but then stalled. A few defensive lapses enabled the Eagle offense, while, on the other end, an American zone caused a five-minute drought in which the Hoyas managed just a Mikael Hopkins three-point play.
But slowly Georgetown found the seams in the Eagle zone. Jabril Trawick drove baseline and found Whittington open in the opposite corner for a three-pointer; a minute later, the same two Hoyas pushed the issue in transition, with Whittington setting up Trawick for an open triple. After another defensive stop, Hopkins connected with Porter on a nice high-low pass for a lay-up. Two stops after that, Trawick set up Markel Starks for a transition three. A Hoya lead that had been whittled to six swelled back to fifteen at the break.
Georgetown's offense kept clicking after the half as its defense locked down the Eagles. For the day, American shot just 29 percent from the field, and was even worse inside the arc, where the Eagles made just 8 of 32 attempts. As American struggled to put the ball in the hole, Georgetown ran away with the game, scoring the half's first eight points and continuing to exploit transition opportunities, the last of which was a nifty Trawick-to-Porter-to-Trawick alley-oop.
At that point, Georgetown was scoring two points per minute, denying American open looks while finding plenty of offensive openings. Having essentially dispatched the Eagles, the Hoyas apparently saw fit to take off early for winter break. Over the remaining quarter of the game, Georgetown managed just five points and didn't look particularly engaged. American narrowed the gap to 12 points before a return of the Hoya starters erased any lingering doubt.
Plenty of Hoyas earned accolades Saturday. First was Porter, who notched his third double-double of the season and capped as consistent of an early-season run as I can remember from a Hoya. Whittington continued to emerge from a shooting slump, having connected on five three-pointers in the past two games after making just five over the previous six games, and also continuing to find opportunities on the offensive glass and in transition. Hopkins had one of his better games of late, contributing nine points on a series of post moves while also setting up his teammates with five assists. And Trawick continued to make his case for starter's minutes, injecting energy on both ends of the floor and finishing with seven points, four rebounds, four assists, and two steals.
Putting aside the turgid last ten minutes, there was great team basketball for much of Saturday's win. Georgetown's 23 baskets came on 18 assists, with the top six Hoyas all assisting on at least two baskets. And, while only Porter and Whittington scored in double figures, the top seven Hoyas scored six or more points. The offensive balance and ball movement made for a productive first thirty minutes and give Georgetown an offensive framework heading into conference play.
There's still plenty for Georgetown to work on over the two-week layoff, the longest mid-season break of the JTIII era, that precedes the January 5th Big East opener at Marquette. On offense, Georgetown remains slow to adapt to opposing zones, often settling for lazy jumpers rather than engaging in the more difficult probing necessary to find a zone's soft spots. (The two freshman wings were the worst offenders in this regard Saturday.) And the Hoya defense still suffers too many perimeter lapses, particularly on the weak side, where quick ball reversals resulted in easy American threes. Overall, depth remains an issue, as Hoyas outside the top seven failed to score in a combined 28 minutes of action, and reserve-heavy lineups again failed to maintain a sizable late-game lead, a repeat of last week's win against Western Carolina.
Still, reasons for optimism also abound heading into conference play. Georgetown finished a typically tough non-conference slate at 10-1, the sixth straight season in which they've entered Big East play with just one loss, including the current seven-game winning streak. The Hoya defense remains strong, generally denying open looks to opponents. Four such foes have failed to score 50 points, one more than last year at this time. And the offense, while inconsistent, has emerged from Towsonian depths, with the ball moving better and the outside shooting improving.
Whether this will all translate to the typical Big East gauntlet remains to be seen. But until then, Hoya Saxa.