Recent Georgetown victories have included a surprising hero or random contributions. Nate Lubick's quality production is neither stunning nor accidental, but rather consistent and timely.
In the Hoyas' latest win over St. John's, both opposing coaches classified the rugged power forward as the game's key. On a team without senior leadership, Lubick's steady presence has been paramount to Georgetown's Big East turnaround.
Lubick scored a career-high 16 points and grabbed 10 rebounds for his first career double-double as Georgetown downed St. John's 68-56 on Saturday afternoon in coach John Thompson III's 200th career win with the program.
Markel Starks and Jabril Trawick each scored 12 points, and Otto Porter had 11 points for the Hoyas (16-4, 6-3), who have won six of seven games. Two of the victories came over the Red Storm (14-8, 6-4), who entered the rematch having won all five games since the 67-51 loss against Georgetown on Jan. 12.
Following the physical and at times chippy contest, the two sides engaged in a tussle during the postgame handshake at midcourt. Neither Thompson not St. John's coach Steve Lavin said they saw what incited the minor scrap, which ended quickly and without apparent injury.
Defensively, the Hoyas played the brute role throughout. Georgetown held the St. John's to 31.7 from the field, marking the seventh straight game holding an opponent under 40 percent from the field. The Hoyas also held the Red Storm's leading scorer D'Angelo Harrison without a field goal.
“Earlier in the season we would play well at times," Lubick said. "We defended as a team at times. Now, we defend as a team for the entire game. We are a much more consistent team and we just keep getting more and more consistent."
Lubick, who entered the game leading the Big East in field goal percentage, connected on 8 of 10 attempts from the floor. Over the last seven games, Lubick is shooting 72.1 percent (31-43) from the field.
"He's been playing at a very high level for quite some time now," Thompson said. "I said a couple of games he's given us quality stats, not quantity stats. When we need something done, he gets the rebound, he makes the assist, he gets the basket. He's been doing that consistently and tonight was no exception.
The rugged junior forward made all five of his first half shots and entered the halftime locker room with 10 points, five rebounds, two assists and Georgetown leading 39-28.
"Any coach would appreciate someone like him," St. John's coach Steve Lavin said. "He's all about the team, he's a grinder. He adds great value in so many ways on both ends of the floor. I thought he was really the key to the game in terms of Georgetown's success."
The starting frontcourt of Porter, Lubick and Mikael Hopkins collectively made their first nine shots, finished the first half 11 of 12 and all scored during a 14-4 run that put the Hoyas ahead 31-19.
After a St. John's basket, swingman Aaron Bowen provided the signature first half highlight with a ferocious two-handed follow-up dunk off an errant missed 3-pointer. Georgetown shot 58.6 percent and led 39-28 at halftime.
The momentum shifted slightly in the Red Storm's direction early in the second half, pulling closer at 48-40. Starks countered with his third and fourth 3-pointers of the game for a 54-43 lead. Starks' finished 4 of 17 from the field, but the four 3-pointers matched his career-high.
Georgetown maintained the double-digit lead from there, ensuring its coach a milestone win during his ninth season on the Hilltop.
"I had no idea that’s where I was," said Thompson who is 200-86 at Georgetown and 268-128 overall. "I’m happy and fortunate enough to be here long enough to get to 200. Hopefully I can get 201 whenever we play our next game."
Harrison, the second leading scorer in the Big East with 19.7 points per game, missed all nine of his field goal attempts and finished with two points. In the earlier meeting, Georgetown limited the 6-foot-3 guard to seven points on 3 of 12 shooting.
"Everyone has to know where he is whenever he’s on the court," Thompson said. "Our guys happened to do a good job and he just happened to have two bad games."
JaKarr Sampson's 18 points led the Red Storm, who entered the week alone in third place, a slot Georgetown will now occupy starting next week.
The Hoyas improved to 12-1 at the Verizon Center, though there was certainly no home cooking when it came to free throws. Despite scoring 32 points in the paint, Georgetown's first free throw attempt did not come until 1:46 remained.
"It’s not like we were just passing around the perimeter, we were going inside and you can’t shoot foul shots if the ref doesn’t call fouls," Thompson said.
Lubick calls himself a "leader," a role he shares with his fellow junior Starks and Porter, Georgetown's top player.
"I am a player that will do anything and everything to win."
There is nothing surprising about that claim.