For several games in January, the skidding Hoyas were without two starters: the academically ineligible Joshua Smith and the broken jawed Jabril Trawick.
Realistically, they were down three, especially offensively.
Senior Nate Lubick played and started all the games. The rugged forward goes hard and is typically an asset on the glass. The son of a high school coach has solid passing instincts, even if his bounce attempts don't always find their target. Lubick's true struggles come with generating his point-producing moments especially as the Hoyas were losing six of seven Big East games.
Georgetown snapped its five-game losing streak on Saturday with a surprising 64-60 non-conference win over No. 7 Michigan State. Lubick and others outside of usual scoring threats Markel Starks and D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera made enough effective plays to tip the balance.
Let's note that Lubick is shooting 53 percent from the field. He has made well over half of his tries during each of his four seasons. It's just that he rarely looks toward the basket. Including Saturday, the 6-foot-8 forward took three or fewer shots from the field in five straight games.
However, the issue doesn't show strictly in the number of attempts, but the lack of aggression, struggling confidence with ball in hand. Opponents rarely guard Lubick away from the basket because he's typically looking to feed others rather than hoist shots. Now, knowing ones limitations is admirable. This felt different and the apparent timid approach carried over to the rest of his offense including getting to the free throw line.
Against Michigan State, Lubick finished 4 of 4. That might not sound like a significant free throw total until we look at his past.
Zero attempts in the previous three games. In the stretch with Georgetown posting a 1-6 record, Lubick took only five free throws, making three.
Four free throw tries is the most he's attempted in any game this season and the most since taking 13 against Marquette on February 11, 2013. So, yeah, Saturday was different from a player who earlier this season became the sixth Hoya in the program's history to have over 500 points, 200 rebounds and 200 assists.
Collectively the Hoyas marched to the line 24 times compared to 16 for the Spartans. That marked the first time in eight games Georgetown took more free throws than its opponent did. In the previous two losses against Creighton and Villanova, the difference in attempts went against the Hoyas 56-20.
Georgetown returns to Big East action Monday night at DePaul.
Leading scorers Smith-Rivera and Starks each posses a scorer's knack and viable handle that puts defenders in compromising positions which helps lead to free throws or at least picking up fouls. The guard pair went 12 of 15 on Saturday with Smith-Rivera making 8 of 9. Mikael Hopkins' attempts have increased following Smith's absence. Georgetown needed more.
Besides free throws, more from Lubick against Michigan State meant two blocked shots. He had five in the previous 14 games. More meant eight points, his highest total since scoring 15 against FIU on Dec. 28. Lubick scored eight total points in Georgetown's last four Big East games.
More from Lubick meant helping to keep the Spartans at arm's length over the final eight minutes. From the high post, he threw a pristine backdoor bounce pass to a cutting Trawick for a layup in the guard's second game back.
On Georgetown's next possession, Lubick threw an inbounds off the back of an unsuspecting Spartan then picked up the ball under the Hoyas basket for his own layup. He tacked on six rebounds, three offensive
Lubick is no Jeff Green or Greg Monroe or Henry Sims, former Georgetown bigs that carried the offense for games at a time. That's fine, few are. He simply can't be an empty option on a team that struggles with scoring. He wasn't against Michigan State.