“Our team has the ability, probably more so than the past couple of years, to win pretty games or ugly games,” Coach John Thompson III said. “This was just an ugly game.”
Was it ever. Consider this: The 89 total points were only four more than the lowest-scoring game in Big East history, a 45-40 victory for Providence over Boston College in 2000.
The Hoyas, who were limited to 49 or fewer points for the seventh time under Thompson, connected on only 26.7 percent of their shots in the second half and 30.5 percent for the game (18 for 59), three days after shocking No. 4 Louisville on the road. It was the Hoyas’ lowest field goal percentage in a victory during Thompson’s eight year tenure and it was underscored by a field goal drought in the second half that lasted 8 minutes 28 seconds.
Providence, meantime, had as many turnovers (13) as field goals and shot 25.5 percent (13 for 59), its worst percentage in a Big East contest.
Despite all that, the Hoyas (12-1, 2-0) made the plays that mattered in a game they led, 41-40, after a layup by the Friars’ LaDontae Henton with 4:32 remaining that elicited groans from the crowd of 11,834.
But from that point Providence would get no closer to ending its lengthy conference losing streak on the road. Overall, the Friars (11-4, 0-2) have dropped 17 straight Big East games outside of Providence and 23 in a row on the road against ranked opponents, a streak of futility that dates from 2004.
Moments after Henton’s layup trimmed Georgetown’s lead to one, Porter, a tenacious 6-foot-8 forward, helped the Hoyas regain control of a game they at one point led 17-4.
First, Porter grabbed a missed shot by Henry Sims and scored a layup that put the Hoyas ahead 43-40.
Then, in the final minute, Porter tipped a missed free throw back out to Markel Starks, who nailed a floater that staked the Hoyas to a 46-40 lead.
Finally, with 26 seconds remaining, Porter made a steal that led to a game-clinching three-point play by Jason Clark (team-best 16 points).
“Rebounding is always very important,” said Porter, who is averaging a team-best 6.6 rebounds per game. “When we rebound good, I think we’re going to be a pretty decent team.”
In all, Porter finished with six points, a game-high 12 rebounds, a blocked shot and a steal. Including the Louisville game, he has 26 rebounds the past two contests.
“We went through a long period where we weren’t scoring,” Thompson said. “So then you just have to figure out how to get stops and how to get rebounds. Otto’s were all key.”
Thompson added: “Otto made the plays that you have to make to win games. And it was glaring today. All the little things that go into winning, he’s been very good at those things. You have to do those things to win in this league.”
Sims, meantime, withstood an uneven afternoon. He made only two of his 13 attempts from the field but finished with seven rebounds, a team-high three assists and four blocked shots. Most important, though, Sims scored five of his seven points in the last 6:21 to help offset a season-low four points, on 2-for-9 shooting, from Hollis Thompson.
The Hoyas were also helped by the Friars’ struggles at the free throw line, particularly down the stretch. They finished the game 11 for 20, including 1 for 6 in the final 8:03.
“It’s been an Achilles’ heel for us,” first-year Providence Coach Ed Cooley said. “Unfortunately, these missed free throws came at critical, critical moments in the game. It changes it.”
Georgetown’s poor shooting percentage, though, probably wasn’t the only number the Hoyas found troubling. Despite Porter’s rebounding total and a season-high eight rebounds for Clark, they were out-rebounded for the third time this season, 45-43.
“At some points in the game they were playing hard than us,” Clark said. “They were getting 50-50 balls and they just played harder than us.”
“But,” the senior captain added, “we stayed together.”