WASHINGTON, DC – Georgetown’s 2012-13 season is officially in the books but the Hoyas had to grind out their 61-55 win over Duquesne on Sunday night at the Verizon Center without the services of pre-season All-American Otto Porter, Jr., who left the game in the first half with an apparent head injury and did not return.
The Hoyas attempted to open their season on Friday in Jacksonville on the USS Bataan against Florida but the game was called at the half after condensation made the court unplayable. The game went down in the record books as ‘no-contest’.
Coming into the new season coach John Thompson III knew he had to replace three departing double-figure scorers – Jason Clark, Henry Sims, and Hollis Thompson – from a team that finished 24-9 and earned a 3-seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Thompson III figured he could rely heavily on Porter, Jr. a pre-season first team All Big-East selection. Instead the sophomore forward whose name appears on just about every NBA mock draft currently available for next season played just six first half minutes and was held scoreless for the first time in 34 career games after being struck in the head during a loose ball situation.
Porter, Jr.’s status for Wednesday’s game against Liberty at the Verizon Center is not yet clear.
“He got hit in the head and as a precaution we said let’s not put him back in,” Thompson III said in improving to 8-1 in season openers after losing his first ever game in charge in 2004.
“He’s just being monitored so we’ll see what happens as the week goes on.”
Picking up the scoring slack in Porter, Jr.’s absence was reserve freshmen guard D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera, who led the Hoyas (1-0) with 19 points – highlighted by a 4-for-4 shooting performance from 3-point range, all in the first half – in his collegiate debut. Smith-Rivera’s 19 points were the most by a freshman in a debut under Thompson III.
“We needed that, we were struggling a little bit and he made shots,” said Thompson III on Smith-Rivera’s instant offense off the bench.
Mikael Hopkins joined Smith-Rivera in double figures with 13 points while Greg Whittington added a career-high 15 rebounds.
“I thought Greg was very, very good today,” coach John Thompson III said.
“He got 15 rebounds and most of them are what I call man rebounds, not ones that just fell to him. He went and got them over the rim. Greg Whittington has a lot of responsibility this year. Some days he looks at that responsibility as a burden, but it is what it is.”
Taking away Smith-Rivera’s 5-for-5 first half performance, the rest of the Hoyas were just 5-for-22 with seven turnovers as Duquesne (0-2) hung around, trailing just 27-21 at the break.
Georgetown kept the Dukes at arm’s length for most of the second half thanks to an 8-0 run but clung to a 54-50 advantage with just under three minutes to go before finally the Princeton-based offense came to life. The Hoyas dialed up their signature play – the back cut – as Thompson III’s two most experience players came to life.
Nate Lubick found a cutting Markel Starks for the easy layup to put the Hoyas up 56-50 as Georgetown eventually held on for the win. It was one of the few times on the night that the Hoyas looked like the Hoyas, at least offensively.
“That was one of the few possessions where we cut hard and we looked for more than the first option,” Thompson III said after watching his Hoyas commit 17 turnovers with just 12 assists on the night.
“We were hunting for our points instead of just making the ball move and on that one possession we went through a whole series of things and then we stayed with it a little bit longer and we got a layup.”
Notes: Tonight’s game was officially part of the Legend’s Classic. Next Monday the Hoyas will travel to Brooklyn to take on UCLA in the semifinals before meeting either Indiana or Georgia on the following day. Smith-Rivera’s 19 points in a Hoyas debut was the most at Georgetown since Michael Sweetney also poured in the same number in 2000.