No. 15 Hoyas run win streak to 7
All of the 12-point lead was gone, wiped away in a few wild minutes. The Hoyas' top scorer was on the bench in foul trouble. No. 15 Georgetown's long winning streak was very much at risk on the road.
The two players that have steadied them through the last few weeks had a few good moments left.
Otto Porter Jr. scored 16 points while playing in foul trouble, and Markel Starks hit the biggest shots down the stretch, rallying the Hoyas to their seventh consecutive win on Friday night, 62-55 over Cincinnati.
Starks hit a go-ahead 3-pointer and made five free throws in final minute, helping the Hoyas (19-4, 9-3) stay atop the Big East. They were tied with Syracuse and Marquette heading into the weekend games.
Starks finished with 17 points. Freshman D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera added 14 points, and Nate Lubick had a team-high four assists.
"Coming down the stretch there, Otto and Markel, along with Nate, are the guys that have to make plays," coach John Thompson III said. "And tonight, they did."
Cincinnati (19-7, 7-6) has lost three of its last four games with poor shooting. The Bearcats shot only 31.5 percent from the field and went 4 of 24 behind the arc. JaQuon Parker led with 15 points.
After Parker's driving basket put Cincinnati ahead 51-50 with 6:53 to go, the Bearcats managed only one field goal and two free throws the rest of the way against one of the nation's stingiest defenses.
Point guard Cashmere Wright established a Cincinnati record for career steals, but went only 5 of 14 from the field while scoring 12 points, ending the Bearcats' recent success in the series. The Hoyas had lost their last four games in the series and hadn't won in Cincinnati since the 2006-07 season.
"We panicked in the first half," coach Mick Cronin said. "We let our offensive struggles affect our defense. You can't do that in basketball. I was really disappointed in that.
"We'd never panicked against Georgetown. That's why we've been able to be successful. We went five years not giving up a backdoor layup to Georgetown. Five years! We gave up four or five of them tonight."
Now, the Hoyas have the longest active win streak in the Big East, winning with a patient but low-scoring offense — only 64.3 points per game — and a defense that allows only 55.7 points per game, seventh nationally.
After pulling ahead for the last time with 6:53 left, the Bearcats managed only one more field goal the rest of the way.
"We haven't won here in some years," Starks said. "It is good to come out and finally get a win here. It's a tough place to play."
Georgetown's surge has been led by Starks, a junior guard, and Porter, a sophomore forward who leads the Hoyas in scoring and rebounding. Both were in foul trouble in the second half, limiting Georgetown's offense and forcing the Hoyas to go to a zone defense for a while.
The 6-foot-8 Porter helped the Hoyas get off to a 13-9 lead, hitting two baskets and a free throw while the Bearcats' long-standing shooting problems continued. They missed 11 of their first 14 shots from the field and 5 of 8 from the free-throw line.
Smith-Rivera hit a 3-pointer — the first by either team after 12 combined misses — and had two free throws, and Nate Lubick scored a couple baskets inside off passes for a 29-20 advantage, the biggest lead by either team in the half.
Georgetown was more aggressive at attacking the basket in the second half. Porter had four points during an 8-0 run that built the lead to 43-31 while the Bearcats struggled to make even a close-up shot, drawing groans from the season-high crowd of 12,842.
Parker got the Bearcats going. He scored 11 consecutive points against Georgetown's zone defense, including a driving back shot that gave Cincinnati a 51-50 lead with 6:53 to go.
"We had to buy ourselves some time because everyone was in foul trouble," Thompson said, referring to his decision to go zone. "Then they started banging some shots in and we had to go back to man-to-man. I thought we did a good job forcing them to take difficult shots."
Porter picked up his fourth foul during Parker's scoring spurt and went to the bench, temporarily costing the Hoyas their leading scorer and rebounder. Porter got back into the game and made a pair of free throws for a 57-53 lead with 1:16 left. The Bearcats never threatened again.
Wright has been struggling to score since spraining his right knee and aggravating his left shoulder in the last few weeks. He's only 10 of 49 from behind the arc in the last seven games, his shot thrown off by the injuries.