WASHINGTON, D.C. – Neither coach wanted to blame it on the unusually early start time but something was off as Georgetown and South Florida combined for just 14 made field goals and 16 turnovers in the first half of their 11 a.m. tip time on Saturday morning at the Verizon Center.
14th ranked Georgetown clung to just a 23-15 halftime advantage despite holding South Florida scoreless over an eleven minute stretch.
Just as it looked like the Hoyas were going to have to survive another close home game in Big East play, Georgetown erupted for 52 second-half points in a 75-45 win over South Florida, its largest in the conference in over four years.
Georgetown (18-4, 8-3) moved back into a second-place tie in the conference standings, two games behind league leaders Syracuse and held their second straight opponent to less than 50 points after arguably its worst defensive performance in a 72-60 loss at Pittsburgh last weekend.
“We felt that we were getting stops and we knew that the shots would start going in,” Coach John Thompson III said about the sluggish first half.
“There were no major changes that we made at halftime, we just said ‘keep doing what you’re doing and the ball will go in fellas’’.
As it turns out, Coach Thompson III was right as the Hoyas connected on 15-of-23 shots in the second half to rescue what looked like a poor shooting effort but ultimately turned into a 50 percent performance from the field.
Henry Sims led an extremely balanced Georgetown attack with 13 points and nine rebounds as five Hoyas scored in double figures for the first time this season.
Otto Porter and Jabril Trawick came in off the bench to score twelve and ten points respectively while starters Jason Clark (eleven points) and Markel Starks (ten points) also hit the double-digit mark.
The Hoyas went on a 16-4 run to start the second half in ending any upset thoughts that South Florida (13-10, 6-4) might have been holding on to despite the poor start.
“The more we couldn’t score the more we got frustrated and all of a sudden they avalanche up,” Coach Stan Heath said about the decisive opening second half stretch that put the game out of reach for his Bulls.
Augustus Gilchrist led the Bulls with 15 points as South Florida fell down into a fifth-place tie with Louisville and Cincinnati.
Perhaps even more impressive than the points and rebounds from Sims was the senior center’s decision making that resulted in five assists and just two turnovers after committing seven miscues against Connecticut in Wednesday’s 58-44 win.
“I think a lot of it is the way they play you,” Coach Thompson III said about those assists.
“They keep people in the paint so you have an opportunity for [Sims] to take chances on passes because it’s clear who’s open.”
Starks’ ten points were probably the most unexpected and maybe the most important as the sophomore had scored just ten total points in the last three games after sitting out against DePaul for an illness.
In typical point guard style Starks stressed the importance of a balanced attack.
“As long as guys are taking good shots and knocking them down, we’re going to spread it around like that,” Starks explained about the offense.
“We came out in the second half especially and just fell into a rhythm and shots were going in.”
Up Next: Georgetown heads on the road to face bitter rivals Syracuse (23-1, 10-1) on Wednesday at 7pm. The second-ranked Orange, who held the top spot for six weeks, are led by Kris Joseph (13.7 ppg). Depending on when conference realignments actually take place, it could be the final meeting between the two founding members of the Big East for the foreseeable future.
Hoyas Notes: In preparation for the early start time, Coach Thompson III had his team getting up and practicing earlier than normal. Georgetown assisted on 16 of 23 made field goals, one of the best ratios for the season.