The authority for sports coverage in the Fredericksburg region.
STEVE DESHAZO: Blue-collar effort could move Hoyas up with season’s elites
WASHINGTON—Unaccustomed to being in demand after Georgetown basketball games, Aaron Bowen cringed Saturday when his cellphone rang in the middle of a news conference. That broke an unwritten rule for both athletes and reporters to avoid distractions in such circumstances.
So, will Bowen have to run laps as a penalty for his lapse?
“Some things we don’t discuss publicly,” coach John Thompson III said with a grin.
Bowen’s punishment is likely to be light because of mitigating circumstances. First, Saturday’s postgame question-and-answer was his first as a Hoya. And it was Bowen’s athletic tip-in with 2:22 remaining that provided the winning points in unranked Georgetown’s 53–51 upset win over No. 5 Louisville.
Scoreless to that point, Bowen promised Thompson during the previous time-out he would get a key rebound. He did just that, chasing down teammate Markell Starks’ miss from the right side of the basket, ducking under the rim and tipping the ball back over his head for a 52–50 lead. If you haven’t seen the replay yet, you will.
“When we got to the locker room, I told [Bowen], ‘I’ve never seen anything like that,’” Starks said. “I tell him all the time, ‘You’re probably one of the most athletic people on the planet.’ When the shot went up, he came out of nowhere and tipped it in. It was unbelievable.”
That’s the kind of effort it’s going to take for Georgetown (14–4, 4–2) to remain competitive in the rugged Big East Conference.
The Hoyas have a smooth all-conference forward in Otto Porter Jr. and a solid point guard in Starks, each of whom had 17 points Saturday. But those two talented players alone won’t be enough to carry Georgetown to the NCAA tournament for the fourth straight year—especially after sophomore starting forward Greg Whittington was declared academically ineligible earlier this month.
Whittington was averaging 12.1 points and 7.0 rebounds a game, both second-best on the team behind Porter. Without him, though, the Hoyas have gone 4–1, including victories over ranked Big East rivals Notre Dame and Louisville in the last week.
The all-for-one approach seems to be working—so well that Louisville coach Rick Pitino quipped that “I’m thinking of suspending a player.”
Still, it’s not a development Thompson recommends.
“We might be 5–0 with [Whittington],” he said. “He is a loss—a big loss. But as a group, everyone is stepping up.”
In recent years, the Hoyas have sent Roy Hibbert and Jeff Green to the NBA. Porter is probably the next in line; NBAdraft.com projects him going eighth overall in June.
Still, without a senior on its roster or a starter taller than 6-foot-9, Georgetown needs blue-collar, dirty-work players like Bowen and junior forward Nate Lubick to complement its stars.
Thompson singled out Lubick, whose six points and four rebounds won’t land him on anyone’s fantasy team. But, Lubick tipped in a miss two minutes before Bowen’s follow shot for the Hoyas’ only field goals in the final five minutes.
“Nate didn’t get quantity stats—he got quality stats,” Thompson said. “When we needed a rebound, he got a rebound.”
And despite Starks’ 17 points, Thompson was most proud of the way he fought through a myriad of screens to help hold Louisville guard Peyton Siva—the preseason Big East player of the year—scoreless.
The Big East may not have quite the depth of the Big Ten, but it was telling that both of its top-five teams (No. 3 Syracuse and Louisville) lost on the same day. Three straight losses have dropped the Cardinals (16–4, 4–3) from No. 1 in the country to the middle of the league standings.
“In this year’s Big East, I don’t think there are any great teams, like in the past,” Pitino said. “Syracuse is a very good team, not a great team. We’re a very good team. Georgetown and Marquette are very good.”
For the Hoyas even to be mentioned in that company is a compliment. And it’s because of complementary players like Bowen that they are.
Steve DeShazo: 540/374-5443