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Georgetown-Florida basketball game on battleship called after one half

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Georgetown’s highly anticipated season opener against 10th-ranked Florida aboard the USS Bataan on Friday night was halted at halftime when condensation turned the custom-made basketball court atop the flight deck into a sloppy, treacherous mess.

Up to that point, moisture on the court hadn’t been much of a problem, though wet conditions were evident during Thursday’s shoot-around. But when players returned from the locker room for the start of the second half Friday, the court, which had been mopped thoroughly before tip-off and again during two breaks in the first half, was drenched in water.

The full 20 minutes of halftime were spent mopping the court, with Florida and Georgetown players and officials joining the all-hands-on-deck effort, pushing towels around under their sneakers. Meantime, Georgetown Coach John Thompson III and Florida Coach Billy Donovan shared their concerns with game officials. Finally, after officials initially announced that the second half would start after a seven-minute warmup, presumably to test conditions, they said the game wouldn’t be resumed.

“This is heartbreaking — especially because we were ready to come out in the second half and give an extremely better effort,” Georgetown junior Markel Starks said. “But obviously there’s nothing we can do about this.”

Said Hoyas sophomore Otto Porter Jr.: “It was fine at the start. But coming out at the half, it like walking on ice. That’s how slippery it was.”

Florida had a 27-23 lead after one half, but the game will go down as “no contest” in the record books and won’t be completed.

The game was the second played on a warship to be canceled because of condensation Friday night. Fourth-ranked Ohio State was scheduled to play Marquette aboard the USS Yorktown in Mount Pleasant, S.C., but the game was called off before it began. Earlier Friday, the Notre Dame women’s team was able to complete a 57-51 win over Ohio State on the same ship, though the players reportedly struggled to see as the sun set during the game.

The Syracuse men were scheduled to play San Diego State on Friday night aboard the USS Midway in San Diego, but that game was postponed earlier this week over concerns about the weather forecast. The Orange and Aztecs will now play Sunday afternoon.

Thompson said he and Donovan were in complete agreement that play shouldn’t be resumed despite the wishes of both coaches to give the U.S. sailors, who accounted for roughly one-third of the crowd of 3,500, the entertainment they’d come to see.

“We wanted to play,” Thompson said. “We saw a lot of things I thought we could capitalize on in the second half. Competitively, you want to play. But once I walked from the baseline to half-court, I realized this is not a safe surface. The kids’ safety — both their team and our team — means too much.”

Thompson sent out a tall starting lineup, with the 6-foot-2 Starks the only Hoyas player shorter than 6-8. He was complemented by sophomore forwards Porter, Greg Whittington and Mikael Hopkins, and junior Nate Lubick.

Patric Young, Florida’s massive center, got the scoring going, but Lubick replied with a three-pointer and supplied the Hoyas’ first seven points.

Georgetown was aggressive on defense, with steals on three possessions in the first five minutes. Florida played without starting point guard Scottie Wilbekin, a 6-2 junior who was suspended indefinitely for undisclosed reasons, which meant that its chief scoring threat, Kenny Boynton, was pressed into ballhandling duty.

D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera was the first Georgetown freshman off the bench and soon after followed a three-pointer by Porter with one of his own. Freshman Stephen Domingo also saw action in the scrappy first half, in which Georgetown shot just 35.7 percent to Florida’s 45.5 percent. Porter and Lubick paced the Hoyas with seven points each, while Whittington and Hopkins grabbed four rebounds each.

“I feel bad because of all the sailors and all the effort and energy the Navy and Marines put into hosting the event,” Thompson said. “We looked at this as an educational experience to come and learn and give back a little bit, so you wish the game could have been able to go on. But it made the most sense to stop it.”

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