Otto Porter’s afternoon began with him sprawled on the Verizon Center hardwood, bleeding profusely after getting elbowed in the mouth only 34 seconds into Saturday’s game.
If Villanova big man Maurice Sutton’s intent was to intimidate the Georgetown freshman, the hard foul had the opposite effect. After receiving medical attention, Porter scored 15 points and grabbed six rebounds to help the No. 9 Hoyas earn a 67-46 win without starting point guard Markel Starks.
“I just remember going after the ball and just getting hit out of nowhere,” Porter said. “I was fired up and so were my teammates. I think they kind of read my mind.”
As impressive as Porter’s effort was, though, it was rivaled by the team’s collective performance: Four days after no Hoyas player scored in double figures in a listless 73-55 loss at Seton Hall, five players grabbed six rebounds, five blocked a shot and four scored at least 10 points as Georgetown improved to 21-6 and 11-5 in the Big East before 19,277, the season’s largest crowd. The Hoyas have clinched at least a first-round bye in next month’s conference tournament.
“We were not good against Seton Hall and I thought we were very good today,” Coach John Thompson III said. “From our perspective, what we did and how we executed, I thought we were 180 degrees from where we were the other day.”
Porter started for the second time this season in the place of Starks, who was in uniform but did not play for reasons Thompson declined to specify. According to a report in the Newark Star-Ledger, Starks disobeyed Thompson’s order to continue playing defense at the end of Tuesday’s loss at Seton Hall. As the teams lined up to shake hands, Thompson was “screaming” at Starks, the report said. Starks had shot 1 for 9 in the game.
Asked if the decision was related to Tuesday’s incident, Thompson said, “I just decided to start Otto and not play Starks.”
Thompson also would not say whether Starks would return to the starting lineup Monday against No. 20 Notre Dame, saying only, “We’ll see.”
Without Starks, much of the ballhandling responsibilities fell to Jason Clark, who finished with 15 points and six rebounds. Clark was also matched up against Wildcats guard Maalik Wayns, who shot 1 for 10 in his return from a three-game absence because of a sprained knee. Wayns averaged 17.8 points per game coming in.
“If his goal was to get 30 a night, he could,” Villanova Coach Jay Wright said of Clark. “But I think his goal is to win and lead his team and set an example.”
The game’s turning point arrived only seconds after the tip. Sutton threw an elbow as Porter pursued a rebound, catching Porter in the mouth. Sutton was assessed a flagrant foul. Porter said he bit his tongue.
When Porter returned, he scored nine points in the first half, including a three-pointer 52 seconds before halftime that ended a 15-2 run by Villanova (11-17, 4-12). Porter’s clutch shot sent the Hoyas into the locker room ahead, 30-23.
In the second half, guard Dominic Cheek (game-high 19 points) and the Wildcats threatened only once. But with Georgetown’s lead whittled to 40-33, the Hoyas snagged four offensive rebounds on one possession, and Henry Sims scored on a tip-in to put Georgetown ahead, 43-33, with 13:01 remaining.
It was that kind of afternoon for the Hoyas, who outrebounded the Wildcats, 41-24.
“There was a lot of effort tonight going after the ball,” Thompson said. “Henry, in particular, several plays came running in from the perimeter to either get the ball or keep it alive.”