ottoIs Otto Porter Jrthe best player in the country?nicole
Rutgers coach Mike Rice did not view Georgetown's Otto Porter as a superstar caliber player when he studied the Hoyas last season. Seeing as the Big East coaches failed to put the then freshman on the conference's all-rookie team, he was hardly alone.
Oh, how times have changed. The sophomore forward continued his torrent production with 28 points, including 16 in the second half as No. 7 Georgetown won its 11th straight game by defeating Rutgers 64-51 on Saturday night.
The Big East-leading Hoyas (23-4, 13-3) attempted a season-high 42 free throws, making 30-more than the Scarlett Knights attempted. Leading 49-45 with 8:08 remaining, Porter made two free throws, starting a decisive 15-4 run - and ultimately sending Rice into reflective mode postgame.
"I saw a really good player," Rice said. "I don't know if anybody in this room could have predicted what he is right now. How efficient, how strong, mentally he's just unbelievable.
"I always thought he was going to be a really good player, but it's not close who is the Big East Player of the Year is right now. If he keeps continuing this, it's not even close [for] national player of the year."
D.C. area native Wally Judge led the Scarlett Knights (13-14, 4-12) with 11 points.
Player of the game: In case you could not guess: Otto, Otto, Otto. In a game dominated by free throws, Porter Jr. made 15 of 18, setting career highs in both categories. He made half of his 12 field goal attempts, drained a 3-pointer and finished with eight rebounds, four steals and three blocks with one coming as the lone defender in a one-on-one fast break scenario. All of that plus two assists with only one turnover while playing all but the final 23 seconds.
Porter officially jumped into the national Player of the Year conversation after scoring 33 points in Georgetown's win at Syracuse last weekend. Over his last three games, the efficient scorer is averaging 27.6 points while shooting 58.1 percent from the field (25 of 43) and 56.2 (9 of 16) from beyond the 3-point arc.
"Stating the obvious, he can score in a lot of different ways," Georgetown coach John Thompson III said. "We can look at how every many games and talk about his scoring, but from day one Otto Porter has done everything. You look at the rebounds, the deflections, the communications. It's not just about the scoring."
Turning point: Rutgers proved pesky for the opening 32 minutes, turning a 12-2 run overlapping halftime into a 33-29 lead early in the second half. Georgetown then took the lead for good with seven straight points, capped by Porter's 3-point play. Still, the Hoyas were unable to gain separation until Porter's free throws increased the margin to six and D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera followed with a 3-pointer for a 54-45 lead. Rutgers never pulled closer than six points. Shooting 32.1 percent in the second half didn't help.
The stat: A game dominated by free throws - thanks to 51 fouls - started the Georgetown constant charity stripe trips by sinking 14 of 19 free throws in the first half - or the exact same number of makes and misses it had in Wednesday's double-overtime win at Connecticut. Porter was an equal opportunist from the line, attempting nine in both halves of the physical game.
"I think that was definitely part of Rutgers game plan today was to be physical with Otto," forward Nate Lubick said. "I think we did a pretty good job of using that to our advantage."
Porter, who walked off the court to a standing ovation, acknowledged the frequent trips to the line made his outing a lot easier.
"When you can get to the hole, get fouled and shoot free throws - they're free so you want to shoot free throws."
Rutgers missed nine of 15 free throws overall.
Notable numbers: Georgetown's 11-game Big East win streak matches the program's record set during the 2006-07 season that ended with a Final Four appearance...in Atlanta, site of this season's event. Also that season, the Hoyas won the regular season title and its last conference tournament. That's a nice parallel for sure, though Thompson knows his team is not at the finish line just yet.
"I don't think we want to sit and take stock of our season and say, 'Ah, I'm satisfied,' or 'Ooh, I'm not satisfied.'" Always the coach, Thompson quickly realized he could in fact deal with part of that statement and blurted, "Actually, I can say I'm not satisfied."
Supporting cast: Smith-Rivera made two 3-pointers and along with Markel Starks scored nine points as no other Hoya scored in double figures. Moses Ayegba tacked on seven rebounds as Georgetown finished with a 35-27 advantage on the boards. Lubick tweaked his ankle before halftime and briefly left for the locker room, but he started and played in the second half.
Who’s next: The Hoyas play at Villanova on Wednesday before closing the regular season against Syracuse at the Verizon Center on Saturday.