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January 21, 2013

Preview: Georgetown @ ND

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Head coach: John Thompson III - 9th season at Georgetown; 264-127 in 13th season as head coach: 68-42 in four seasons at Princeton; 196-85 in 9th season at Georgetown. Took the Hoyas to the Sweet 16 in 2005-06 and the Final Four in 2006-07. Finished the 2006-07 season with a 30-7 record.

You should know: That the Hoyas have been struggling to score points all season. They won, 37-36, over Tennessee on Nov. 30 when neither team scored over the final four minutes. Georgetown scored 48 points in a one-point loss at Marquette on Jan. 5, and then managed just 45 points in a 28-point loss at home to Pittsburgh on Jan. 8. It was the Hoyas' worst home loss in 40 years. Georgetown also defeated Towson at home despite scoring just 46 points…Georgetown is expected to be without second-leading scorer and second-leading rebounder Greg Whittington, who has missed the last three games and has been declared academic ineligible…Georgetown holds a 15-13 lead in the series, including victories in six of the last nine against the Irish. Notre Dame was held to 41 points in an 18-point loss to the Hoyas at the Verizon Center in Washington D.C., last February, ending a three-game Irish winning streak over the Hoyas. Prior to that, Georgetown had defeated Notre Dame five straight.

Top losses: Jason Clark (14.0 ppg., 4.1 rpg.), Hollis Thompson (12.8 ppg., 5.5 rpg.), Henry Sims (11.6 ppg., 6.0 rpg.)

Top players: The Hoyas are led by dynamic sophomore Otto Porter, Jr., who is averaging 14.3 points and 7.6 rebounds per game while shooting .503 from the field and .417 (15-of-36) from three-point range. He also leads the team in offensive rebounds with 26 and is tied for the team lead in blocked shots with 17.

Otto Porter, Jr

Porter, who missed time early this season with a concussion, scored 21 points in Saturday's loss to South Florida. He also had 20 points and 18 rebounds on Jan. 16 against Providence, and 19 points and 14 rebounds on Jan. 12 at St. John's.

Georgetown is expected be without its second-leading scorer and No. 2 rebounder - 6-foot-8, 205-pound sophomore Greg Whittington - who was declared academically ineligible last week. Whittington, who was averaging 12.1 points and 7.0 rebounds per game, was a force on both ends of the court for the Hoyas. He scored a career-high 25 points and grabbed 11 rebounds against Western Carolina in mid-December.

Look for 6-foot-1, 175-pound junior Markel Starks to pick up his scoring in the absence of Whittington. Starks averages 11.4 points per game and has had several big outings, including 16 points and seven assists against Providence, 17 points versus St. John's, and 18 points against Marquette. Starks scored 20 points against Indiana and a career-high 23 versus UCLA. He is shooting .833 from the free-throw line (20-of-24) and .415 from three-point range (22-of-53).

Veteran Nate Lubick, a 6-foot-8, 235-pound junior, averages 7.4 points and 5.4 rebounds per game. He paced the Hoyas in rebounds with 10 in Saturday's loss to South Florida. Lubick, as well as 6-foot-9, 223-pound sophomore Mikael Hopkins, should absorb much of the productivity/time lost by Whittington's absence. Hopkins led the Hoyas in scoring (eight points) in the 37-36 victory over Tennessee in late-November. He averages 6.6 point per game, but is shooting just .561 from the line (37-of-66).

D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera is a 6-foot-3, 227-pound freshman averaging 6.3 points per game. He scored 19 points in his Hoya debut in the season-opener against Duquesne. He also had 16 points off the bench Saturday against South Florida. Jabril Trawick, a 6-foot-5, 210-pound sophomore, averages 5.3 points per game.

Prister's take: Be prepared for the possibility of a very ugly game of basketball tonight when the Irish and Hoyas square off with ESPN providing the coverage. The Irish have had difficulty scoring at times against long, athletic teams, and John Thompson III's squad will play great defense and stretch out their offensive possessions. Georgetown is offensively challenged, and it doesn't matter who the opponent is, as evidenced by its 15 first-half points against Towson and 22 points in the opening 20 minutes at home against Pittsburgh two weeks ago. Against the Panthers, the Hoyas ended up with more turnovers (17) than field goals (13).

That being said, the Irish aren't clicking on all cylinders either. After losing at home to UConn and on the road to St. John's, they appeared poised to pull away from Rutgers at home Saturday night after taking a 13-point lead early in the second half, only to have to hold on for a three-point victory over the Scarlet Knights. It appears that the opposition has caught up to Notre Dame's free-flowing offense, and now the Irish bench has gotten even shorter with Garrick Sherman and Cameron Biedscheid struggling in their first forays into Big East play.

The Irish got a big boost from Pat Connaughton (17 points) against Rutgers, and they may need him to duplicate his scoring numbers unless Scott Martin can regain his scoring touch/aggressiveness. Martin, who three games ago was averaging 9.7 points and 6.4 rebounds per game, scored just seven points (2-of-9 shooting) and missed all four of his three-point attempts against Connecticut, St. John's and Rutgers.

Jack Cooley was back to his old self with 19 points and 10 rebounds against Rutgers. But if he doesn't get help up front against the Hoyas, he may find it difficult to maneuver in the paint. Tom Knight gave the Irish a boost with six points in a 1:41 span Saturday. But as effective as he was in the second half, he was equally ineffective in the first. The Irish need Eric Atkins and Jerian Grant to play their best basketball virtually every game for them to win consistently.

Georgetown has lost three of its last five, and now without Whittington, they are missing another piece to a puzzle that was scattered to begin with. If the Irish can limit Georgetown's three-point shooting and hold their own against the Hoyas' size, they should be able to pull out another home victory tonight.

But nothing is coming easily for either one of these teams, which points to a close, low-scoring, poor shooting game in which the outcome - not the journey to victory - is the only thing that matters.

Pointspread: Notre Dame by 6
Prister's Prediction: Notre Dame 64, Georgetown 56
Prister's record: 14-4 straight up; 7-8 vs. points

 


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