Reporting Bobby Bancroft
WASHINGTON – Just before tip-off on Wednesday night, Otto Porter Jr was getting his teammates pumped up and looking rather sharp in doing so.
The problem for Georgetown coach John Thompson III was that his Preseason All-American candidate was in a dark tailored suit, and not the familiar grey uniform that the Hoyas sport at the Verizon Center.
So with Porter Jr. unavailable with mild concussion symptoms, fellow sophomore Greg Whittington picked up the slack by pouring in a career-high 18 points and narrowly missing a double-double (nine rebounds) in the Hoyas 68-59 win over Liberty before an announced crowd of 6,743.
The Hoyas (2-0) also received strong performances from Nate Lubick – career-high 13 points, eight rebounds – and Mikael Hopkins -13 points.
Freshman D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera chipped in 11 points to start out his college career with back-to-back double-figures performances after leading Georgetown with 19 points against Duquesne.
Liberty (0-3) fell to 0-9 all-time in meetings against Big East schools despite getting 15 points from Davon Marshall and hitting on 10-of-19 three-pointers as a team.
Still, it was Porter Jr.’s status that was the main talking point after the game, especially with a match up in the semifinal round of the Legends Classic against No. 13 UCLA in Brooklyn looming next Monday.
“I think he’s coming along fine,” Thompson III said afterwards.
“I think he’ll be available [against UCLA], but that’s up to our medical staff, he’s progressing. It’s mild [concussion], it’s not moderate and it’s not serious.”
Porter Jr. was hit in the head in the first minute of Sunday night’s 61-55 win over Duquesne and played a total of six scoreless first-half minutes before heading back to the locker room for good.
Before tonight’s win, Porter Jr. had played in all 34 games of his Georgetown career.
Georgetown quickly fell behind 4-0 against Liberty before rattling off 17 straight points that was punctuated with a Nate Lubick dunk.
Liberty kept things close by hitting 5-of-8 three-pointers before the half and pulled to within five points at 23-18 after a Marshall long-distance shot.
Whittington’s layup in the final minute of the first-half gave the Hoyas their biggest lead at 41-25 heading into the break.
After already posting career-highs in both points and rebounds after just two games, Whittington is starting to show that he has the ability to lead the Hoyas in a variety of different ways. While maybe a surprise to some in the crowd, nothing about Whittington’s early season success is catching his coach off guard.
“I said this sitting here after last game, Greg can do a lot of different things,” explained Thompson III about his 6-foot-8 wing player.
“He has that responsibility/burden to do a lot of different things, so I don’t think it’s any more a surprise to look and see he scored points today than it was to look and see that he had 15 rebounds after the last game.”
Georgetown pushed the margin to 23 after a Smith-Rivera three-pointer gave the Hoyas a 55-32 lead with 13 minutes left in the contest.
Liberty managed to make the final score look respectable as the Hoyas shuffled in and out lineups, perhaps looking ahead to that UCLA showdown as well as potential match up with top-ranked Indiana.
“With all due respect to Liberty, we’ve got some games coming up and we’re preparing for some teams that are a little bit better than them,” Lubick said after the win.
“We use these games to find ourselves and to find what this team’s identity is going to be. We have to go into every game acting like it’s the last game we’re going to play, and I think we’ve kind of struggled to.”
Notes: Georgetown released a statement regarding Porter Jr.’s mild concussion an hour before tip-off. Monday’s meeting with UCLA will be just the third overall, and first since the 2002-2003 season. The Hoyas are currently win less against the Bruins (0-2). Freshman Stephen Domingo, who needed just three years to graduate from St. Ignatius (CA), opened his collegiate scoring account in going 2-for-5 from the field for five points.