COLUMBUS – The Georgetown one-and-done streak in the NCAA tournament came to a screeching halt on Friday afternoon in Columbus and much of the credit goes to the two players who had run out of opportunities for ‘another chance’.
Jason Clark led Georgetown with a game-high 21 points while fellow senior Henry Sims added 15 points to go along with five assists as third-seeded Georgetown defeated No. 14 Belmont 74-59 in the second round of the 2012 NCAA tournament at Nationwide Arena.
The Hoyas (24-8) advanced to Sunday’s Midwest Regional third-round game and will meet No. 11 North Carolina State which defeated San Diego State 79-65 earlier in the day. It was the first post-season win for Georgetown since 2008.
After falling victim to opening round upsets in each of the past two seasons by losing to Ohio (2010) and VCU (2011), Clark got things started early by scoring ten quick points as Georgetown took an early 14-8 advantage.
And it wasn’t by accident.
The 6-foot-2 guard who hadn’t scored more than 15 points in a game since erupting for a career-high 31 on January 17th at DePaul was looking to lead by example.
“I think it was definitely a sense of urgency, not just for me but for the whole team,” Clark said about the need for an early advantage after playing from behind in previous NCAA tournament losses.
“We’ve know what we’ve done in the past so it was big for us to get this win today.”
Georgetown was able to increase its lead to 36-27 at the halftime break but was forced to do so with both of its starting big men – Henry Sims and Nate Lubick – glued to the bench with two fouls apiece.
Coach John Thompson III surprised his counterpart by settling down in a very long, aggressive 2-3 zone that really bothered Belmont’s shooters for the rest of the game.
The Bruins (27-8) were forced into shooting 27 three-pointers, which accounted for exactly half of its field goal attempts on the afternoon (54). Blake Jenkins scored a team-high 17 points while Ian Clark added 12 after going 4-off-11 from deep.
“They play at less than a third zone defense,” Coach Rick Byrd said about his Georgetown scouting report.
“And we’ve got good shooters, and I just didn’t predict that we’d face zone or that we’d do as poorly as we did.”
Belmont, which lost to Georgetown in the opening round of the NCAA tournament for the second time since 2007, had its 14 game winning streak, the longest in the nation, snapped despite making 10 of those 27 three-pointers.
The Bruins are now 0-5 in the NCAA tournament.
With Sims and Lubick available for the second half, Georgetown began to look like the team that went 10-1 in the non-conference portion of its schedule with an offensive efficiently associated with a team that relies on Princeton principles.
Georgetown made 70 percent (16-of-23) of its field goals after the break and never allowed Belmont to creep closer than six.
The Hoyas led by as many as 19 when freshman Greg Whittington found classmate Otto Porter on a backdoor cut layup to make the score 70-51 once Porter completed the three-point play with a made free throw.
Porter, who wasn’t around for those previous Hoyas post season miscues, ended the game with 16 points on 6-of-7 shooting and a team-high 8 rebounds.
“They shot 61 percent from the floor and they made 12 turnovers,” Coach Rick Byrd said after his Bruins allowed Georgetown to connect on 30 its 49 shots from the field for the game.
“That’s a scary good offensive efficiency performance and therefore pretty bad defensive efficiency number for Belmont.”
When asked how important it was for Georgetown to get back into the win column in the NCAA tournament, Thompson III acknowledged the need to shake the negative perception.
Said Thompson III: “There’s no doubt – and I will be misleading if I were to say it was not a relief.”
“Our guys turn on TV and seems like most of the world picking us to lose today”.
“So it’s over. But this tournament is not about let’s get that monkey off your back, it’s not. We’re going to see if we can win another one on Sunday.”
Up Next: The Hoyas will face North Carolina State for the second consecutive season after beating the WolfPack 82-67 last season. NC State holds a 4-2 all-time advantage over the Hoyas but Georgetown did win the only other meeting in the NCAA tournament – 69-61 in the 1989 East regional semifinals
Hoyas Notes: Jason Clark is now tied for Brandon Bowman for 14th in school history with 170 steals.