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Georgetown vs. Louisville: Hoyas looking for consistency

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On certain occasions, the Georgetown men’s basketball team can push a highly ranked team such as Indiana to overtime, go to a building where it has not won in seven years and shoot the lights out in a runaway win or play well without its second-leading scorer and rebounder.

Then there are days when the Hoyas play with little regard for ball security and defense and lose to Big East opponents that had been winless in the conference.

Such are the developments for Georgetown in a season that has yielded promising results followed by deflating performances.

Take the most recent two games, against South Florida and Notre Dame.

Georgetown lost to the Bulls, 61-58, in Tampa last Saturday in part by committing 15 turnovers and allowing 7 of 13 three-pointers during the second half. South Florida had been 0-4 in the conference.

Two days later, the Hoyas produced perhaps their most complete performance of the season in throttling the then-No. 24 Fighting Irish, 63-47, at Joyce Center, where Notre Dame had won 47 of 49 games.

Georgetown shot 53 percent, committed just nine turnovers and limited Notre Dame to 35 percent shooting, including 2 for 16 from three-point range.

“No, I’ve talked to them more about not being bad,” Georgetown Coach John Thompson III said this week when asked if he has addressed consistency issues with his players. “I don’t want to get those thoughts in their heads. We didn’t have a good day at South Florida. We had a very good day at Notre Dame. . . . Why was there a difference, and let’s just see if we can do the positive things.”

When the Hoyas (13-4, 3-3) play Saturday afternoon against No. 5 Louisville, they will have had four days to prepare for one of the front-runners in the Big East but one that has lost two in a row.

The Cardinals’ most recent result was a 73-64 defeat at Villanova in which they shot 40 percent, committed 17 turnovers and were outrebounded offensively, 11-6.

The losing streak — then-No. 1 Louisville also lost at home to Syracuse last Saturday — prompted Coach Rick Pitino to tell reporters his players need to upgrade significantly on defense, with particular attention to three-point shooting.

The Cardinals (16-3, 4-2) have allowed their past two opponents to shoot 14 of 30 combined from that distance.

Georgetown, meantime, made 12 of 27 three-pointers in its last two wins. The Hoyas are shooting 36 percent from three-point range, which ranks second in the Big East.

“It takes a lot, and this is a really tough conference to be able to do that in,” Georgetown staring forward Nate Lubick said of winning over an extended period. “The really good teams are the ones that can do that, who string together five wins and not lose two games in a row.”

An encouraging sign for the Hoyas is that they’ve been able to withstand the absence of starting forward Greg Whittington, whose 12.1 points and seven rebounds are second to Otto Porter Jr. on the team.

The sophomore has not played since Jan. 8 because of academic ineligibility and remains out indefinitely, although Thompson has said Whittington could rejoin the team this season.

Whittington’s absence has by necessity accelerated the offensive development of D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera. The freshman guard is averaging 15 points over the past two games and has made 11 of 19 field goals, including 4 of 9 three-pointers.

“I think it took me a few games to understand what my role was,” Smith-Rivera said. “I think defensively is what helped me along the way this season. I think once I started to be more active on defense, then I knew what I was capable of on offense.”

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