Thursday’s rematch went a bit smoother for the 16th-ranked Hoyas.
The win was the eighth in a row for the surging Hoyas, who improved to 10-1 overall, 6-0 at Verizon Center in their final tuneup before opening conference play Wednesday at No. 4 Louisville. Memphis, meanwhile, fell to 6-5 in front of a crowd of 12,045, which included Washington Wizards star John Wall and scouts representing 17 NBA teams.
The Hoyas opened the second half on a 7-0 run, and about eight minutes in, owned a 56-36 lead after Thompson knocked down a pair of free throws.
“Great halftime adjustments by the coaches,” Coach John Thompson III cracked before turning serious. “At halftime we settled down a little bit. We did a much better job communicating on [defense] . . . which allowed us to get stops, which allowed us to score at the other end.”
Georgetown’s big lead almost wasn’t enough.
Uncharacteristically sloppy play by the Hoyas – underscored by two stretches in which they committed turnovers on three consecutive possessions – permitted Chris Crawford (17 points) and the Tigers to move within striking distance, 63-56, with 3 minutes 16 seconds remaining.
In all, Georgetown made 15 turnovers, matching its season high. Henry Sims (12 points, nine rebounds) committed five of them, including three in the second half.
“We spent all week hearing what good passers we are, and we may have made too many extra passes, trying to make things happen that weren’t necessarily there,” said Thompson III, who added that the Tigers’ switch to a zone defense gave his team trouble.
Despite the turnovers, Sims gathered himself and came through for the Hoyas in the clutch. After missing three of his first five free throw attempts, the senior center made four in a row in the final minutes to ensure the Tigers never got closer than seven points.
Sims also was involved in the prettiest play of the game. He threw down a thunderous dunk to cap a four-pass, full-court fast break in the waning seconds of the first half that sent the Hoyas into the locker room on a 6-0 run and leading 35-28.
“That definitely boosted our confidence, that little run at the end of the half,” Sims said.
The game couldn’t have unfolded more differently from the teams’ meeting Nov. 23 in the fifth-place game in Hawaii, where the Hoyas pulled out a 91-88 victory that bolstered the team’s collective confidence and sparked its current run.
Georgetown never trailed Thursday and held guards Will Barton and Joe Jackson in check. Last month, Barton scored 22 points and Jackson had 20. In the rematch, the duo combined for 14 points.
“We saw on the tape that he likes to drive the middle, so we tried to cut those drives off,” Thompson, a junior swingman, said of Barton. “And when did get in the middle, all my teammates sucked in and helped me out.”
The Hoyas have now won four straight against the Tigers and nine of the teams’ 11 meetings all time.
“It’s always good to beat a team two times in a row,” said Clark, who also had five rebounds and a game-high four steals. “That’s the type of game we want to have in the Big East. It definitely boosted our confidence.”