Narrow wins stifle Georgetown’s attempt to charge depth

Georgetown has played in its fair share of uncomfortably close games during the first eight contests of the season. While the optimist might suggest this kind of trial by fire will prepare the Hoyas for the rigors of the Big East campaign, the pessimist has an eye on another issue.

By letting teams such as Towson hang around, as the Hoyas did during their sluggish 46-40 victory Saturday, Georgetown has been forced to play its starters for large portions of the game, hamstringing coach John Thompson III’s attempts to build the depth needed for when the competition ratchets up.

“We’ve had some very difficult games,” Thompson said. “I think it’s easy sometimes as a coach or as a fan to sit back once the game is over and say, ‘Oh, this is what the score was, why didn’t you do this?’ We haven’t had any games yet where we’ve walked away from a person, where as a coach, you can focus on, ‘OK, let’s get Billy and Frankie and Bobby some time.’”

Monday’s game against Longwood (2-6) would appear to be the opportunity to buck that trend, but so far, it’s not safe to assume the Hoyas (7-1) have anything in the bag with a young roster still finding its way.

“We do need to build up reserves, but these guys need to get confidence and settle in to being the core group,” Thompson said. “There are many balls in the air.”

Three players — guard Markel Starks and forwards Greg Whittington and Otto Porter — are averaging more than 32 minutes, and forward Nate Lubick is just shy of the 30-minute mark.

Freshman guard D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera has played an average of 18 minutes, but he’s been the only member of the class to see significant minutes.

Georgetown knows it has to give its bench players quality minutes, but with the pressure of playing in hard-fought games, the Hoyas can’t afford to let youngsters learn on the fly.

“That is something that will be pretty important moving forward,” Lubick said. “We definitely do need somebody to step up and give us quality minutes off the bench. We have had some guys that have been doing that, but if we get one more, we’ll be in good shape.”

Touted freshman Stephen Domingo has played in seven games for the Hoyas but has made minimal impact, as have big man Moses Ayegba and swingman Aaron Bowen. Guard Jabril Trawick has averaged 21 minutes in eight games, but he’s more of a defensive specialist than a scorer, which Georgetown would like to find to help its ailing offense.

The short rotation puts the onus on the Hoyas’ starters — who are all young themselves — to deliver with heavy minutes on their ledger.

“It’s important because it takes a load off us,” Porter said. “Playing in and out every day — the competition level is hard. Hopefully [the bench players] can get into the rotation.”

That’s not to say the starters are complaining about the load. Whittington, who averages 11.5 points, doesn’t have any problem playing with a target on his back as teams try to scheme to slow him down and wear him out.

“It’s comfortable for me — I’m just doing the things I know I can do to help our team win,” the sophomore said.

In theory, the Hoyas’ December schedule — with four games against lesser competition — is an opportunity to find minutes for everyone. But so far, it hasn’t panned out that way.

“We’ve been focused on: Let’s win this game, let’s get out of here with a victory,” Thompson said. “That’s a function of maybe scheduling as much as anything else. If you have a different kind of scheduling, you may be able to worry about building up reserves, which we have to get to.”

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