Memories of last year’s Big East Quarterfinal started to creep into the heads of Hoya fans early in the second half. Georgetown (25-5, 14-4 Big East) trailed Cincinnati (22-11, 9-9 Big East) 33-31 at the start of the half after losing a 16-point lead. Head Coach John Thompson III even admitted he was nervous.
“Yes, [when you lose that lead] you’re worried,” Thompson said. “On the first four possessions of the second half we looked extremely flat.
The Hoyas didn’t panic, though. They clamped down defensively and advanced to the semi-finals of the Big East Tournament with a 62-43 victory over Cincinnati. The semi-finals will be a rematch with arch-rival Syracuse.
“For the most part, this group doesn’t get rattled,” Thompson said. “They went to a match-up which threw us off. It didn’t take too many possessions for us to get settled into what we were trying to do.”
Sophomore forward Otto Porter Jr. led all scorers with 18 points and went 11-of-11 from the free throw line. The Wooden Award candidate also recorded 6 rebounds and 2 assists. Junior guard Markel Starks shot 6-of-10 from the field and finished with 14 points, 3 assists, and 2 steals.
Georgetown’s bench was crucial once again for the victory. Freshman guard D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera added 13 points, 4 rebounds, and 2 assists.
“Otto is getting a lot of attention and he should,” Thompson said. “But we have a very good team. During the same stretch, Otto played well, Markel, and Nate played very well.”
After struggling with his shot for much of the year, Smith-Rivera seems to have found his stroke. He knocked down 5 of his 11 shots in the game.
“I never lost any confidence in my game,” Smith-Rivera said. “It was just a matter of understanding my role is on the team.”
The Hoyas outrebounded one of the best rebounding teams in the nation 23-22. Much of the reason for this was junior center Moses Ayegba who grabbed a game-high 8 rebounds, including 2 offensive rebounds.
“Moses definitely gives a presence,” Thompson said. “He does an outstanding job on the defensive end.”
Georgetown took a commanding 24-8 lead with five minutes to play in the first half. Sophomore guard Jabril Trawick scored 9 points in the first ten minutes of the game including 2 early three-pointers. Before the end of the half, though, the Bearcats stormed back with a 16-5 run in which they made 5-of-6 shots at one point. Guard Cashmere Wright hit three three-pointers make the game a contest at halftime, 29-25.
Cincinnati continued its push in the second half and started the half on a 9-2 run, going ahead 33-31. Georgetown’s defense took over, though, allowing only 10 more points the rest of the game. Cincinnati shot only 36.8% in the game. Continued offensive production from Porter and Smith-Rivera pulled the Hoyas ahead to secure the 62-43 win. Thompson even recognized that this year’s defense is one of the best he has ever coached.
“[This defense] is up there,” Thompson said. “It reminds me of 2007 when we had Roy [Hibbert] in the back. We don’t have Roy in the back this year, though.”
Georgetown’s win sets up an epic semi-final showdown with Syracuse. The Hoyas have swept the series so far this year. Tip-off is at 7 p.m. at Madison Square Garden.
“It would be a great game,” Porter said. “I’m pretty sure they would like a rematch against us.”
File Photo: Miles Gavin Meng/Georgetown Voice (Mar. 9, 2013, vs. Syracuse)