But Hoyas struggle to defend the 3
The absence of Otto Porter Jr. does at least two things for Georgetown.
One, it forces the Hoyas to learn how to function without their best player. Two, it shows just how much of a work in progress they are with no seniors, two experienced juniors and the rest underclassmen.
Despite cruising in the first half against Liberty without Porter, who was sidelined with concussion symptoms, the Hoyas (2-0) were outscored in the second half of their 68-59 victory at Verizon Center. They also gave up far too many 3-pointers, were all but equaled in rebounding (29-27) despite a significant size advantage and had little to celebrate despite career nights from a couple of players.
"We use these games to find ourselves, to find what this team's identity is going to be," said junior forward Nate Lubick, who had a career-high 13 points and eight rebounds. "We have to go into every game acting like it's the last game we're going to play. I think we've kind of struggled to do that the past two games."
Sophomore Greg Whittington was one rebound short of a double-double with a career- and team-high 18 points, nine rebounds, four assists and two steals. But Hoyas coach John Thompson III was far more concerned about Liberty's 10-for-19 shooting from 3-point range.
"We are a very good 3-point defensive team, and that was not the case today," Thompson said. "They got Sunday down at the park shots, and they went in. Our attention to detail at the defensive end I don't think was good all night. Our communication was not good at all tonight."
The Hoyas announced prior to the game that Porter would miss the contest while he continues to be monitored after getting hit in the head in the first half of Georgetown's game against Duquesne on Sunday. Sophomore Jabril Trawick made his first start in Porter's place.
After Liberty's Tavares Speaks (12 points) opened the game with a pair of jump shots, the Hoyas turned up the defensive pressure, responding with a 17-0 run that started with 10 straight points and a quartet of forced turnovers before the Flames (0-3) even attempted another shot.
The high tempo and lack of halfcourt basketball suited the Hoyas, who shot 61.5 percent in the first half. Markel Starks (four assists) couldn't resist the subtle fist pump after he threaded the needle with a long bounce pass in transition to Whittington, who rose up for the long armed finger roll to make it 41-25 at halftime.
The lead ballooned to 23 points, but Davon Marshall (12 points) and Casey Roberts (13 points) cut into the margin with 5-for-11 shooting from behind the arc in the second half. The Hoyas missed eight of nine 3-point attempts after the break, and Thompson kept his starting rotation on the floor - a group that without Porter included two juniors (Lubick, Starks) and three sophomores (Whittington, Trawick and Mikael Hopkins) - turning the game into a glorified practice that the Hoyas clearly need with No. 13 UCLA just around the corner at Barclays Center in Brooklyn on Monday.
"Last year our freshman class helped us," Thompson said. "This year that class almost has to be the core of who we are. That's a big adjustment, in terms of production and in terms of roles in the locker room. We're growing. Our schedule is such that we've got to grow pretty fast. We've got baptism by fire starting pretty soon. But we're growing up. That's what's happening."