Georgetown hit 7 of its 11 three-point attempts, including 5 of 6 in the second half, on its way to a 71-68 victory in the Big East opener for both in front of 22,571 fans at the KFC Yum! Center.
The No. 4 Cardinals held the Hoyas top three scorers under their averages, but sophomore guard Markel Starks tallied a game-high 20 points and freshman forward Otto Porter added 14 points and 14 rebounds off the bench for 12th-ranked Georgetown (11-1, 1-0).
"It was disappointing, especially since it was our first Big East loss here," senior guard Chris Smith said. "It's sad, but at the same time we have to keep moving."
It was the opposite feeling on the other side.
Starks, who wished all the media "happy holidays" at the end of the Georgetown press conference, made 7 of 8 shots, including all four of his three point tries (which all came in the second half). The 6-foot-2 soph came in averaging 9.7 points per game (fourth on the team). Meanwhile the 6-8 Porter, who entered averaging 8.3 points per game, was 5 for 6 from the field.
Junior forward Hollis Thompson tallied 10 points, nearly five below his average, while freshman guard Jabril Trawick, who came in averaging 3.6 ppg, added nine – all in the first half.
"You take away some of the bigger players scoring-wise…(leading scorer) Jason Clark had seven (well below his 15.7 average) and Hollis had 10, but they had really good freshmen and a sophomore and that hurts," UofL coach Rick Pitino said.
Senior forward Kyle Kuric tallied a team-high 17 points, but in 40 minutes he had just four rebounds for the Cards (12-1, 0-1), who were out-rebounded 38-32. Junior point guard Peyton Siva scored 15 points, dished out six assists and had five steals. Russ Smith added 14 points off the bench, but he was just 6 for 13 from the field for Louisville, which shot 41.7 percent (25 for 60) for the game.
Sophomore center Gorgui Dieng, who entered the game with five straight double-doubles, had seven points, eight rebounds and two blocked shots in 26 minutes before fouling out.
"We did some real good things to get back in the game, but we didn't have a real good post presence tonight and we needed that," Pitino said.
The Cards came out hot early, hitting their first three three-pointers (two from Kuric and one from Chris Smith) to take a 12-3 lead. Louisville still led by nine (17-9) when Dieng picked up his second foul and went to the bench. He remained there for the rest of the half.
"Gorgui got in foul trouble and we need him in there all the time, we need him to play 38 or 39 minutes," Chris Smith said.
The Hoyas outscored UofL 18-8 over the next eight minutes. They took their first lead, at 26-25, since 2-0 on a pair of free throws by Mikael Hopkins four minutes before halftime. The Cards responded with eight of the next 10 points, a run that was capped off by back-to-back dunks by freshman forward Chane Behanan.
Louisville led 35-32 at halftime thanks to 44.8 percent (13 for 29) shooting from the field. The Hoyas, who shot 43.5 percent (10 of 23) from the field, stayed close thanks to their free throw shooting. Georgetown was 10 for 13 (76.9 percent) from the foul line in the first half.
Louisville began the second half somewhat stagnant offensively, but after Starks hit his first three-pointer (giving Georgetown a 39-37 lead) the Cards ran off seven straight points. Kuric's three-pointer from the wing was followed by a Siva steal and acrobatic layup and a Dieng dunk to put UofL ahead 44-39.
The Hoyas answered with seven in a row – capped off by Starks' second three – to surge ahead. However Siva then hit 1 of 2 free throws and a scoop shot to give Louisville the lead, at 47-46, with 11:48 to play.
Georgetown, though, responded with seven more straight points. The run was capped by Jason Clark's two free throws on the heels of a technical foul, called by official Karl Hess, on Pitino.
"I was telling Kyle not to go under (the screen)," Pitino said afterward. "His name is Karl and he thought I was talking to him about defending screens."
Kuric hit a pair of free throws to end the Georgetown run, but Starks hit his third three seven seconds later to give the Hoyas a seven-point lead (56-49).
Chris Smith and Dieng then missed front end free throws of one-and-one situations before Starks' fourth three-pointer push Georgetown's lead to 10, at 59-49, with 6:14 to play.
"They spread us out and pretty much hit a lot of threes," Chris Smith said.
However the Cards, as they have done many times so far this season, made a late surge. After Starks' backdoor layup put the Hoyas ahead 63-52 with 4:23 remaining Louisville reeled off 11 points in a row.
Russ Smith started the surge with a three-pointer from the corner before Siva hit two free throws, Behanan threw down a dunk, Siva scored off the glass and Dieng was credited with a basket off a goal-tend to tie it at 63-all with 2:02 to play. Porter's put-back put the Hoyas ahead for good 20 seconds later.
Russ Smith then missed a rushed three-point try before Henry Sims knocked down a pair of foul shots. Porter hit two more free throws after Kuric missed a long three-point try before Russ Smith's three made it a three-point game (69-66) with 23 seconds remaining.
"We did some good things with our pressure, but I thought we really rushed and jacked up shots when it was still a game," Pitino said.
Porter, though, hit two free throws with 19 seconds left to seal it.
"I thought we could catch somebody again because when you watch the film you don't see great execution," Pitino said. "But you have to give credit to them, they made the plays. They made their free throws and when you break it down we missed a lot of free throws that would have kept us in the game."
UofL was just 10 of 17 (58.8 percent) from the free throw line for the game and shot only 38.7 percent (12 for 31) in the second half.
"They got us spread out in the first half and there were a lot of holes and gaps for Siva to get into," Thompson said. "We kept it more compact in the second half so those holes weren't so big."
The Cards now have a couple of days to get ready for archrival Kentucky at noon on Saturday at Rupp Arena.
"We've got to watch a lot of film," Pitino said. "Our guys haven't seen Kentucky play, I don't think they realize how good they are. They are a terrific basketball team and they are very tough to guard. I've seen them a few times and they are very tough to guard in so many different ways. They are great on the break. They are a very good team defensively and that causes a lot of offense, so we've got to really study. It's more about personnel than it is any sets.
"I think I'm worried about everybody. They've got great shot-blocking. I think (Doron) Lamb is a terrific shooter. (Darius) Miller is a terrific shooter. They've got a lot of bigs and they've got more experience than they've had. Even when they've had great teams they shoot it better from both the foul line and the field so I think that's very dangerous. They're also very good defensively and very good in transition."