Hoyas down UCLA; face No.1 Indiana next

Hoyas down UCLA; face No.1 Indiana next
November 20, 2012, 10:30 am
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Georgetown Hoyas forward Otto Porter (22) drives to the net as UCLA Bruins forward Travis Wear (24) defends during the second half at the Legends Classic at Barclays Center.

(Debby Wong-US PRESSWIRE)

Inconsistent play combined with a missing sense of urgency during season-opening wins over Duquesne and Liberty proved obvious without Georgetown's head coach and players later concurring. Having All-American candidate Otto Porter for only six minutes in one game and out entirely in another did not help. An admitted case off the look ahead's with a matchup against a ranked UCLA on the horizon, also not helpful.

With Porter back and the UCLA contest on the day's agenda, the Hoyas (3-0) performance against the Bruins Monday night went the way of famed wrestler Bret Hart: excellence of execution.

The prize for turning in an impressive 78-70 win in the semifinals of the Legends Classic in Brooklyn? Georgetown faces top-ranked Indiana on Tuesday. Playing in the other semifinals, the Hoosiers, downed Georgia 66-53 despite an off scoring night from National Player of the Year candidate Cody Zeller.

There was little off about Porter and the Hoyas, who led 31-29 at halftime, surged ahead with a 12-0 run opening the second half before putting the game away with another late run in the final minutes. Markel Starks paced four double-digit scorers with 23 points on 9 of 14 shooting, Greg Whittington tallied 13 points with three 3-pointers and the Hoyas shot 54.5 percent from the field.

However, it's no coincidence the stepped up effort followed Porter's return. The 6-foot-8 forward finished with 18 points, 11 rebounds, five assists, five blocks, three steals and sank both of his 3-point attempts. That's some serious stat stuffing, that's why scouts view the sophomore as a potential lottery pick.

Another dose of hot shooting and do-everything play from Porter and the other Hoyas will be required for the clash against Indiana (4-0). After missing a plethora of 3-pointers early on against Georgia, the Hoosiers found their range, particularly guard Jordan Hulls, who drained 4 of 6 from beyond the arc and finished with 14 points in the 66-53 win over the Bulldogs.

Zeller, considered by many the top returning player in the country, finished with only six points. Don't count on consecutive bad nights offensively for the skilled 7-footer, though the Hoyas have tons of length they can throw at the Player of the Year candidate. Upper Marlboro native Victor Oladipo paced Indiana with 15 points.

Three thoughts heading into tonight's showdown with Indiana, the first meeting between the two traditional basketball powers since the 1979-80 season.

* The Hoyas length, especially when Georgetown coach John Thompson III employs at least four 6-foot-8 players on the court at the same time in his zone defense, can be an intoxicating visual. Though the Hoosiers shot 5 of 16 from beyond the arc versus Georgia, they are knocking down 3's at a 38 percent clip. Winner of this matchup likely wins the game.

*Before Monday night, Starks' career game came last Dec. 28 at then No. 4 Louisville when the then sophomore guard made 7 of 8 shots for a career-high 20 points in a Georgetown win. That player has rarely showed up since. In the following 20 games including the opening two this season, Starks had not topped 11 points. More than simply tallying points, the chatty guard often played with more bark than bite. That led to fewer minutes in spots as last season progressed and raised some concern about the Hoyas backcourt this season considering the youth behind Starks. Against UCLA, the aggressive and confident version showed, one that also finished with a career-high four steals. More of that against Indiana would go a long way toward a Georgetown triumph.

* Effective inside and on the break, Zeller shot 62 percent from the field while averaging 15.6 points and 6.6 rebounds last season as a freshman. Mere stats did not define Porter's strong freshman campaign. They won't during his second year on the Hilltop either, they we can already see the numbers growth potential from Georgetown's de facto point guard. While not paired in a direct matchup, no doubt comparisons between the equally instinctive sophomore' become part of the game's backdrop. Giddy up.