“I said: ‘Look, just play. Stop thinking. Stop worrying about what you’re not doing well, what you want to do well. Just play [and] play hard. Play with a lot of energy and things will work themselves out,’ ” Thompson recalled.
Lubick responded to Thompson’s challenge with his most complete performance of the season in Monday’s 68-64 loss to Cincinnati. He scored eight points (on five shots), grabbed eight rebounds (five on the defensive end) and notched three assists, the final one coming on a crowd-pleasing behind-the-back bounce pass to Otto Porter.
Lubick’s effort was among the few bright spots of the defeat, the No. 11 Hoyas’ second in a row. It also served to encourage Thompson and the 6-foot-8, 235-pound sophomore, who, for one night at least, rediscovered the gritty game that thrust him into the starting lineup a year ago.
“I just got more tired of how bad I was playing,” Lubick said Friday at McDonough Gymnasium, where Georgetown (13-3, 3-2 Big East) was preparing for Sunday’s showdown with St. John’s (8-8, 2-3) at Madison Square Garden. “It got pretty frustrating. Whether it was the way the ball was falling or the way I was playing, it just wasn’t happening.”
Lubick’s season-long slump had escalated from confounding to concerning once Big East play started. In the four conference games before the loss to Cincinnati, Lubick had averaged three points and two rebounds, surprisingly small figures underscored by a two-point, zero-rebound effort in 12 foul-plagued minutes at Louisville.
“I just had not been playing well at all, in any facet of the game,” Lubick said. “I had not been involved enough at either end of the floor. It wasn’t any personal problem or anything like that. I was just going through a bad slump.”
Thompson added, “That can’t happen, where he has [zero-] and one-rebound games.”
Although Lubick couldn’t pinpoint a specific source of the slump, there’s no doubting when it began. He attempted an average of five shots a game in the season’s first six contests but only 2.1 in the nine games before the Hoyas hosted the Bearcats. The drop-off can be traced back to wins over Memphis on Nov. 23 and IUPUI on Nov. 28; Lubick shot a combined 3 for 15 in those games.
“When you start missing, you get nervous and start thinking about shooting,” Thompson said.
It shook Lubick’s confidence and that, it seemed, seeped into other parts of his game.
“When you’re in a rut, you end up spinning yourself into the ground,” Thompson acknowledged. “He spent too much time feeling sorry for himself.”
Indications that Lubick might be on the verge of a breakthrough arrived early against the Bearcats. Before the game was six minutes old, he had already made a jumper, missed another, assisted on a three-pointer by Hollis Thompson and nabbed three rebounds.
“That’s the type of Nate that we want every single game,” senior captain Jason Clark said. “That’s the type of Nate, that when he first got here, that’s how he played. He just played hard, rebounded, scored, [made] hustle plays. If he brings that every single night, every single practice, he’ll be an unbelievable player.”
Lubick was even more involved in the second half. During a four-minute stretch early, he converted two backdoor passes from Porter into easy layups. He also made a highlight-reel, no-look pass to a cutting Porter.
“That was the right pass to make,” Thompson said. “That wasn’t a fancy pass. He’s capable of doing it.”
The 23 minutes Lubick played were the most he had received in eight games. But Georgetown’s 17 turnovers — and the resulting loss — prevented Lubick from celebrating a performance that both he and Thompson hope marked a turning point in his season.
“Nate brings an aggression that we need,” Thompson said. “A post presence, a presence on the boards, an effort level and energy that we need. . . . If he plays with that zest and that energy, he’ll get rebounds and he’ll make his presence felt on the game.”
Hoyas note: Freshman center Tyler Adams, sidelined indefinitely since complaining of chest pain in practice last month, still is being evaluated by doctors, Thompson said Friday. “There is nothing new,” he said. “The doctors have prolonged the period of testing and evaluating.”