This time, they got to play two halves. Two nights after their canceled matchup with Florida on the USS Bataan, the Georgetown Hoyas (1-0) beat an overmatched Duquesne (0-2) indoors in front of their home fans at the Verizon Center. The 61-55 margin in the regional round of the Legends Classic was a lot closer than anticipated. The Hoyas were led by freshman guard D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera’s 19 points and sophomore guard Greg Whittington’s 15 rebounds.
There was plenty of reason for concern, though, chief among them a head injury to sophomore forward Otto Porter Jr. Porter went down early in the game and headed to the bench, where he showed visible signs of pain, shaken up from what initially looked to be a poke in the eye. He reentered the game shortly thereafter but was taken out with lingering symptoms and did not return.
“He’s being monitored,” Head Coach John Thompson III said. “He got hit in the head and just as a precaution, we said ‘Let’s not put him back in.’”
Porter’s status for Georgetown’s next game is uncertain, as is his status for the near future. Concussion-like symptoms have rightly been treated with greater precaution over recent years, making Georgetown’s decision to allow him to reenter the game after the initial blow to the head a questionable one.
Without Porter, Georgetown’s offense looked to be out of sorts, something junior forward Nate Lubick admitted to after the contest. “I think that might have been part of why we looked a little sloppy is that we started thinking about Otto not being in the game too much and people started to look for their own offense a little too much. Even without Otto, we need to be willing to stick to our stuff and run everything through.”
For his part, Lubick played more energetic basketball, the variety of tough-nosed play he exhibited during his freshman year. He scored seven points and grabbed seven rebounds, mostly making his impact felt in a frustrating first half where the Hoyas offense stagnated around the perimeter for the second straight game. Thanks to Smith-Rivera, though, it did not cost Georgetown the lead, as the freshman drained all four of his three-point attempts en route to 16 points by halftime.
“He was open, his teammates found him, and he put the ball in the basket,” Thompson said before complimenting Smith-Rivera’s passing ability.
“Like Coach said, he was the recipient of some good plays and he knocked down open shots. I think the shots he knocked down were after multiple passes,” Lubick added.
Both players’ efforts on the offensive end complemented sophomore forward Mikael Hopkins‘s 13 points down low. Hopkins struggled at times to make his presence felt, shooting just 5 for 12 from the field. Though Thompson was encouraged, he admitted the Hoyas, starting with Hopkins, have a lot of work to do to improve. “I thought he was OK,” Thompson said of Hopkins. “We’re going to need him to be good, not just OK. He’s got a long way to go also.”
We didn’t get the ball inside,” Thompson said. “The same thing happened against Florida in that first half. We had guys that make shots but we’re not going to rely on making shots solely this year. We have a lot of guys that are good on the interior, we have to get it in there.”
The Hoyas seemed to break the game open over certain periods of time in the second half, opening up leads as large as 11 points. But every time, they let the Dukes back into the game, failing to close out on jumpers or committing untimely turnovers. It led to a tight finish, with Duquesne trailing by just three points with 32 seconds left. After a missed free throw, Whittington made the biggest play of the game, grabbing his 15th and final rebound before draining two free throws to seal the game.
“It’s a long year. We have a lot of room for improvement. I think we will improve relative to what we saw today. But we got to go do it.”
Photos: Dan LaMagna