Sophomore plays smart to sidestep foul trouble

The Cincinnati game wasn't the first time that Otto Porter Jr. got into foul trouble. But for Georgetown, it might've been the most harrowing. It's also a potential risk that looms large for the Hoyas (19-4, 9-3 Big East), whose rotation remains perilously thin even as they've reeled off seven straight victories.

Porter spent large chunks in each half of the Hoyas' 62-55 road win over the Bearcats on Friday saddled with foul trouble. The first two came in a span of 50 seconds, the second with 14:50 still remaining before halftime. But Georgetown coach John Thompson III didn't pull him off the court until the 12:11 mark -- just after the star sophomore had picked off a pass and completed a 3-point play on the fast break.

"Coach just trusts me out there," Porter said. "I knew that I picked up silly fouls so I just had to play smart. My teammates allowed me to do that."

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Porter's first three games with at least four fouls weren't quite as competitive. He picked up his fourth personal in the waning moments of Georgetown's 46-40 win over Towson on Dec. 8 and in a 73-45 blowout loss to Pittsburgh on Jan. 8. He fouled out of the Hoyas' 74-65 win over Providence, their second game without Greg Whittington, who remains suspended for academic reasons. Thompson, who recently used the word "slim" to describe Whittington's chances of returning this season, has essentially used slightly more than six players since.

D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera (7.4 points per game) has been Georgetown's only significant contributor off the bench while Moses Ayegba and Aaron Bowen have played small roles.

"Since Greg has not been eligible to play, guys have been ready and able when they've been called upon to step up," Thompson said. "That's what we expect."

Nate Lubick and Mikael Hopkins have fouled out three times each in conference play. Lubick said it's not about playing with foul trouble but avoiding it in the first place.

Against the Bearcats, Porter also finished the half with just the two fouls and 17 minutes of playing time, about what is expected for the team's leading scorer (15.3 ppg) and rebounder (7.9 per game). In the second half he picked up his fourth foul with 7:29 remaining. Again he sat a regular three minutes before re-entering, and then didn't pick up a personal foul the rest of the game, which was important as Hopkins fouled out while Lubick and Jabril Trawick ended the game with four fouls apiece.

"Let [Thompson] worry about the foul situation," Porter said. "Just go out and play your hardest, that's it."

The Hoyas maintain they're not overlooking the Blue Demons (11-14, 2-10) despite the looming showdown in their final Big East visit to Syracuse (21-4, 9-3) on Saturday.

"I think this group understands that we don't have enough margin of error to start overlooking anyone," Thompson said. "You look at the Big East standings right now, you look at where we stand and you look at the team that is last [South Florida], and we lost to the team that is last."