Roughly an hour and a half after athletic department officials revealed Georgetown starting forward Greg Whittington would be out indefinitely because of academic issues, the Hoyas stepped onto the Verizon Center court Wednesday for a second consecutive game without their second-leading scorer and rebounder.
Whittington’s absence mattered little in the first half when Georgetown built what appeared a comfortable lead, but Providence stormed back and forced the Hoyas to withstand multiple comeback bids during a 74-65 victory in front of an announced crowd of 9,210.
With a team-high 20 points on 8-for-13 shooting before fouling out with 1 minute 29 seconds to play, Otto Porter Jr. was one of three Hoyas to reach double figures in the team’s second straight win and ninth in 11 games. Junior guard Markel Starks had 16 points and a team-high seven assists, and junior forward Nate Lubick added 10 points and four rebounds.
“I think our guys, the last two games, have done a very good job of sharing the ball,” Hoyas Coach John Thompson III said. “We’re making the extra pass. We’re setting pretty good screens. We’re cutting hard, which is then opening up our teammates. I think the guys are doing a good job of searching for shots for their teammates instead of searching for shots for themselves.”
The Hoyas shot 53 percent, including 67 in the first half, forced 16 turnovers and made 19 of 25 foul shots, with 17 of 22 coming in the second half. Georgetown (13-3, 2-2 Big East) also limited Big East scoring leader Bryce Cotton to five points in the first half when the Hoyas led by 19, although the junior guard finished with 21 on 7-for-16 shooting.
Georgetown’s largest lead, 41-19, came shortly thereafter on a three-pointer from Starks to open the second half, but Cotton’s three-pointer triggered a 15-2 flurry that drew the Friars to 45-36. Cotton also closed the run with a three-pointer and made another field goal that trimmed the margin to eight.
Providence (9-8, 1-4) stayed within reach for the next several minutes until Lubick collected a defensive rebound, got fouled and made two free throws. Starks followed with two foul shots, and Porter gathered an offensive rebound off D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera’s missed jumper, scored on the put-back and drew a foul.
Porter sank the bonus free throw, and the Hoyas had extended the lead to 60-45 with 6:43 left in regulation. Providence again made a push, this time getting to 67-60 with 2:10 to play, but the Hoyas scored five of the next seven points, all from the foul line.
“The whole team stepped up,” Porter said. “If we continue to play like we’ve been playing, then everything else will take care of itself. Even with Greg out, we’re just going to continue to step up and play Georgetown basketball.”
Whittington had started 13 games but did not accompanying the team Saturday to St. John’s. The Hoyas won that game, 67-51, after school officials announced shortly before tip-off Whittington would be unavailable.
The versatile forward has logged three double-doubles and led the Hoyas in scoring three times this season. Whittington (Oakland Mills High School) is one of three Georgetown players to average double figures in scoring, and his 35.2 minutes per game are the most on the team.
Whittington’s 17 three-pointers also lead Georgetown, and his 17 steals are second behind Porter, who is the Hoyas’ top scorer and rebounder. Twelve of Porter’s points Wednesday came in the first half, when the Hoyas closed on an 8-0 run to forge a 38-19 advantage.
Sophomore guard Jabril Trawick, who has started for Whittington the last two games, made the front end of a one-and-one to start it, and moments after Smith-Rivera sank a three-pointer, Porter collected the ball at the foul line with the first-half clock expiring, drove to the basket and got a leaner in the lane to fall as the buzzer sounded.
“Obviously Greg is one of our better players, and we miss him,” said Thompson, adding Whittington may be able to play again this season. “That being said, you have to adjust, adapt a few things strategically as a coach, but at the same time, players have to step up and play.”