- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 23, 2013

PHILADELPHIA — Otto Porter knew from a season’s worth of experience that Florida Gulf Coast would make stopping him a priority.

“Teams have been focusing on me the whole season,” the Georgetown star forward said.

But this time, in the bright spotlight of the NCAA tournament, Porter wasn’t able to overcome that increased pressure. The 15th-seeded Eagles held him to four points in the game’s first 29 minutes Friday night as the second-seeded Hoyas suffered yet another early exit.

“I think that Otto gave 110 percent, as he has all year,” coach John Thompson III said. “There were some shots, I want to say midway through the first half, some chippies by his standards that didn’t go in, and he maybe started thinking about it a little bit. I don’t know. But he got looks; the ball just didn’t go in.”

On the way to Big East Player of the Year honors, Porter shouldered the load for Georgetown most of the season, especially after Greg Whittington was ruled academically ineligible. But his teammates were quick to defend him after Friday night’s disappointment.

“I know he didn’t have his best night today, but that has nothing to do with the reason that we lost,” guard D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera said. “Everybody had their moments where they weren’t playing their part.”

Porter finished with 13 points, nine in the final 11 minutes, as Georgetown made a run to cut a 19-point deficit to four. But the sophomore forward also missed six shots in that stretch, including two layups that could have made the difference.

“We missed some easy shots. We missed a lot of easy shots, shots that Otto’s been hitting all year, just didn’t go in,” guard Markel Starks said. “You have those days and unfortunately we had a day like today in the first round.”

Porter has had a few days like that lately. Beginning with Georgetown’s game against Syracuse on March 9, through the Big East tournament and Friday night’s NCAA tournament opener, he shot .326 from the floor (15-for-46). In his first 28 games, he shot .503 (153-for-304).

Porter doesn’t think anything happened differently.

“Nothing changed,” he said. “Even from the first game most teams knew what I was capable of. But it’s just a matter of just paying more attention, more focus on what you need to do to win.”

When Georgetown struggled early and found itself in a fight with Florida Gulf Coast, Porter knew it was on him to lead the way.

“The whole game I tried to just be vocal out there, get us back into it,” he said. “But at the same time it’s hard when they’re making shots and making plays.”

And Porter couldn’t. He shot 5-for-17 from the field as the Hoyas bowed out in the opening weekend of the NCAA tournament for the second straight year.

“When you’re the player on that team that makes a lot of things happen, a lot of teams are going to start keying in on you, and it makes each game tougher,” Porter said. “You have more tape to watch. You can see what you can switch up. And it’s hard. Winning is hard.”

It’s even harder for Georgetown when Porter’s game isn’t clicking. The Hoyas likely wouldn’t have been a No. 2 seed and ranked No. 8 in the country without his player of the year-caliber season.

“With Otto this year, he’s a tremendous player,” Smith-Rivera said. “You’ve seen him throughout the year. He’s very efficient; he plays hard all the time. He’s versatile, he does everything. He definitely carried us a long way.”

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