Lineup is quicker now with Whittington out

For the first half of the season, Georgetown trotted out a starting lineup with four players 6-foot-8 or taller -- as much length as any team in the NBA, much less the Big East.

It's one of a number of advantages the Hoyas (12-3, 2-2 Big East) are learning to do without following the indefinite loss of sophomore forward Greg Whittington because of academic ineligibility.

"He's probably our best defender, who can guard multiple positions," Hoyas coach John Thompson III said. "It's a loss in many different ways. We just have to go about it without any one person trying to overcompensate."

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Georgetown at South Florida
When » Saturday, 6 p.m.
Where » USF Sun Dome, Tampa, Fla.

Instead of four big men, Thompson opted for three guards down the stretch in Georgetown's 74-65 win over Providence on Wednesday: Jabril Trawick (6-5), Markel Starks (6-1) and D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera (6-3). It was a matchup driven decision, but it also may be his best lineup going forward. What the Hoyas lose in height they gain in better natural spacing and quickness.

"We can be versatile still," Thompson said. "I think we still have the ability between Otto [Porter Jr.] and Nate [Lubick] and Mikael [Hopkins] -- and even Aaron [Bowen] to a lesser degree -- to be long and play with the length that we've grown accustomed to the last two years."

But while Hopkins has started every game this season and is tied with Porter for the most blocks (17), he has struggled to shoot (.362 field goal percentage) and rebound (2.6 per game) consistently despite his presence in the lane. Making up for Whittington's absence on the boards is crucial for a team that struggles to control the glass against most opponents anyway. Against the Friars, Trawick and Smith-Rivera had four rebounds apiece, while Hopkins had just two.

Offensively, the delineation between the roles has been clearer. In the low post, Lubick has scored in double figures in both games Whittington has missed. So has Starks, who has found the rhythm with his jump shot, hitting better than 50 percent of his shots in three of his last four games. He also matched his career high with seven assists against Providence.

Most importantly, Porter has realized the increased burden on his shoulders. After a combined 22 points and nine rebounds in Georgetown's two losses to start Big East play, he has rallied for 39 points and 22 boards in the last two games.

Bowen surpassed his career high in scoring in the first half alone Wednesday, knocking down a pair of 3-pointers 90 seconds apart. He spun and bounced as he backpedaled after the first, celebrating as if the basket had come in garbage time, when he has gotten most of his minutes over two and half seasons. By the second, he was more composed.

"The whole team stepped up and continued to play like we've been playing," Porter said. "Even with Greg out, we just need to continue to step up as a team and play Georgetown basketball."