The Rutgers men’s basketball team already owned a pair of victories over top 10 opponents this season, and with Georgetown struggling offensively Saturday, the Scarlet Knights had a third in their sights at Verizon Center.
But Hoyas freshman Otto Porter made sure it didn’t materialize.
Porter scored the final six points of the game, including a jumper with 1 minute 5 seconds remaining and a pair of free throws with 8.5 seconds left, and No. 10 Georgetown escaped with a 52-50 win on an afternoon that began with the Hoyas missing 20 of their 23 shots in the first half.
“He is composed,” Coach John Thompson III said of Porter. “Otto doesn’t get rattled. He just plays the game.”
The victory was the third in a row for the Hoyas (16-3, 6-2 Big East) and their 10th in a row at home over Rutgers (11-9, 3-4). And they secured it despite making only 12 field goals, which is tied for the fewest in a college basketball victory this season, matching Harvard’s total in a 46-41 victory over Florida State on Nov. 25.
The Hoyas’ 13 percent shooting in the opening 20 minutes, meantime, ranked as the worst in Thompson’s eight seasons. The 29.3 percent for the game was their worst this season.
It was as ugly as it sounds. But Thompson and his players weren’t about to complain about aesthetics.
“I didn’t look at that box score at halftime,” Thompson cracked. “I told them at every timeout in the first half and again at halftime: Sometimes you’re having a bad offensive day and it’s because the other team is disrupting you. But we were missing layups. The ball just wasn’t going in.”
In the first half, the Hoyas compensated for their poor accuracy by make 14 of their 18 free throws. In the second half, they overcame their offensive deficiencies — and a four-point performance from Hollis Thompson, the Hoyas’ second-leading scorer who was hobbled with a sore leg — with defense.
And, of course, Porter.
The Scarlet Knights seized a 50-45 lead on a three-pointer by freshman guard Eli Carter with 2:33 left. But they couldn’t pull away.
Henry Sims (12 points, 10 rebounds for first career double-double) made a free throw to pare it to four points. Nate Lubick then made a steal and fired a heads-up pass to Porter, who scored a layup with 1:34 left to make it 50-48. Then, moments later, Jason Clark drew an offensive foul from Carter and, on the ensuing possession, Porter sank a jumper from the top of the key to knot the score with 29 seconds left.
On the ensuing Rutgers possession, Myles Mack missed a three-pointer and teammate Derrick Randall fumbled the rebound out of bounds, giving the ball back to Georgetown. At the other end, Porter was fouled by Mike Poole as time wound down. Porter stepped to the line, and with the calm and cool of a senior, sank both free throws.
The Scarlet Knights had one final chance, but Carter’s jumper hit the back of the rim and bounced out as a time expired.
“I was just thinking hit the free throws,” Porter said. “I’ve practiced my free throws, and I was able to hit them.”
Rutgers Coach Mike Rice was critical of the officiating. The Hoyas attempted 36 free throws to the Scarlet Knights’ seven.
“It was interesting the last two minutes; it was decided by a whistle by a certain individual referee who decided to take it upon himself to decide the game,” said Rice, whose Scarlet Knights earned wins over then-No. 10 Florida and then-No. 8 Connecticut the past three weeks. “It’s a loss that we let slip away. We didn’t find a way to win; we found a way to lose.”