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TMA: Undefeated no more

12/29/2011

The Morning After is our semi-daily recap of the night's best basketball action. It remains convinced M83 deserved album of the year.

No. 12 Georgetown 71, No. 4 Louisville 68: Raising eyebrows, turning heads -- whatever your preferred phrasing, the Georgetown Hoyas just keep on doing it. The last time Georgetown lost a game came in the Maui Invitational, in a 67-63 loss to the Kansas Jayhawks. Since then, this team has beaten Memphis twice, Alabama at Alabama, and now Louisville at Louisville, and why? Freshmen. Particularly Otto Porter.

Of course, Georgetown's veterans have been great, too. Henry Sims is one of the nation's most improved players and one of its best passing big men; Hollis Thompson has become a versatile scorer and stretch forward; Jason Clark remains an excellent shooter. But for all those players' improvements, Georgetown is a different team this season largely thanks to Porter, a once-unheralded, later-touted recruit from a small town in southeast Missouri -- Sikeston, Mo., to be exact -- who didn't play AAU basketball. Porter eventually became a top-50 recruit, according to most analysts, but he appears to have been drastically underrated. Porter's 14 points and 14 rebounds -- borne from his unique combination of size, length, ball skills, intuitive rebounding, toughness and scoring -- were among the main reasons Georgetown was able to leave the Yum! Center with a win Wednesday night.

Perhaps most impressive about Porter -- not to mention emerging sophomore Markel Starks (7-of-8 from the field, 4-of-4 from 3, 20 points) -- is the consistency with which he's looked more like a junior than a freshman. Unlike so many players ranked ahead of him in the 2011 ESPNU 100, Porter hasn't needed time to adjust to the college game, whether physically or mentally. He's ready now. In turn, the Hoyas -- who, like Porter, were barely mentioned before the season -- are looking like bonafide Big East contenders.

No. 17 Michigan State 80, No. 15 Indiana 65: Your obligatory who-scored-what-when statistic of the night: From the 5:47 mark in the first half to the 11:14 mark in the second, Indiana outscored Michigan State 38-14. Outside of that time frame -- in the first 15 minutes and the final 10 -- Michigan State outscored Indiana 66-27.

This game was like that, with both teams making runs, getting hot, opening a lead, getting cold, shoring up the defensive boards, getting hot again, scoring points in transition -- sloppy as it occasionally was, it was an impressively played game. A good offense (Indiana) going on the road against a tough, hard-nosed defense (Michigan State) and seeing which had the most at the end of 40 minutes. Wednesday night, that team was Michigan State, as the Spartans' overhauled defense, one of the best in the country to date, stifled Indiana's offensive threats. Indiana forward Cody Zeller found inside touches difficult to come by; he finished with just four points on 2-of-5 from the field. Likewise, point guard Jordan Hulls was constantly harassed by Michigan State defensive stalwart Keith Appling, and Hulls, one of the most efficient shooters in the country, finished with a totally out-of-character 2-for-10 night from the floor.

Indiana's Christian Watford was excellent (26 points, 10 rebounds) but it wasn't enough: Wednesday night, Tom Izzo's defense earned another pelt, stopping an offense that had yet to be stopped all season. It wasn't the prettiest affair, but one doubts the Spartans were bothered by that.

Everywhere else: Our own Jason King was on hand for Baylor's ugly-but-hey-it's-a-win 54-52 victory over Mississippi State. ... Syracuse rolled Seton Hall and one of the season's early surprises in big man Herb Pope . ... Ohio State didn't break a sweat against an overmatched Northwestern team. ... Connecticut, playing without Jim Calhoun (who is serving his three-game NCAA-mandated Big East suspension) barely escaped South Florida 60-57. ... Missouri State upset Creighton on the road, handing the Bluejays their first home loss and earning Kyle Weems, who outplayed Creighton star Doug McDermott, some deserved attention. ... West Virginia handled Villanova, and these Wildcats still look really rough. ... And Purdue barely escaped Iowa City with a 79-76 win over the Hawkeyes.