Georgetown eases past cold-shooting South Florida in Big East tournament opener

South Florida's Dominique Jones offers little resistance as Georgetown guard Chris Wright sails in for a basket in the first half.
South Florida's Dominique Jones offers little resistance as Georgetown guard Chris Wright sails in for a basket in the first half. (Jonathan Newton/the Washington Post)
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By Liz Clarke
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 11, 2010

NEW YORK -- It was the ragged sort of game that casts doubt on the wisdom of expanding the Big East tournament to a 16-team, five-day marathon of college basketball. But for Georgetown fans who suffered through last season's first-round tournament ouster, the only statistic that mattered Wednesday at Madison Square Garden was that the Hoyas outscored their opponent, defeating a woefully misfiring South Florida squad, 69-49, to advance to Thursday's quarterfinals.

Their next opponent: top-seeded Syracuse (28-3), the only team to have beaten Georgetown twice this season. To avoid a three-game sweep, the Hoyas will have to play far better than they did in vanquishing a self-destructing South Florida squad in Wednesday's second-round meeting.

Georgetown (21-9) was led by sophomore center Greg Monroe and sophomore guard Jason Clark, who scored 16 points each. Junior guard Chris Wright added 15, while junior guard Austin Freeman managed eight points on 3-for-12 shooting.

While the victory surely helped build momentum and bolster the Hoyas' case for a reasonably high seed in the NCAA tournament, it was dubious preparation for Syracuse, which boasts the league's highest shooting percentage (51.5) and largest average margin of victory (15.3 points per game).

At no point on Wednesday was South Florida an offensive threat, leading just once, at 6-4. The Bulls (20-12) hit just 30.2 percent of their shots, and the statistics would have been unspeakable without Big East first-team honoree Dominique Jones, who accounted for 21 of his team's 49 points.

Jones, who scored a game-high 29 in South Florida's 72-64 victory over Georgetown on Feb. 3, discounted the role played by the Hoyas' defense Wednesday.

"I don't think [Georgetown's defense] was tougher," Jones said. "We had open shots, and we missed them. I missed them. . . . You can't beat a top 25 team and a Big East team without hitting shots."

Neither team distinguished itself in the first half.

Freeman attempted only one shot through the first 13 minutes, but he hit Wright with a nice pass for an easy layup that put the Hoyas ahead, 19-9, and prompted a South Florida timeout.

Coming out of the huddle, Jones tossed up an air ball from beyond the arc, dropping the Bulls' already miserable shooting percentage to 21. And it sank even lower. At one point, the Bulls were shooting 17 percent from the floor and 33 percent from the free throw line. It took South Florida 16 minutes to score its first 10 points.

Georgetown's Clark was the only player with a genuine touch for the basket early, hitting three three-pointers in the first half. Wright, meantime, earned his 10 first-half points in trademark fashion, slashing through towering defenders for layups.

Meantime, South Florida showed remarkable range in the shots its players failed to make, missing jumpers, free throws and even a dunk, drawing at least three taunts of "air ball!" from the crowd in the first half alone.

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