Georgetown started quickly in the second half, extricating itself from a deliberate slowdown by Columbia and scoring a 38-26 victory over the Lions tonight in the opening round of the Rochester Classic.
The 17th-ranked Hoyas (9-2), with 14 points each from Patrick Ewing and Eric Floyd, won their eighth straight game and advanced to Wednesday's 9 p.m. final against Niagara, which upset Utah, 72-64, before 4,606 in the War Memorial.
Georgetown came into tonight's game favored by 20 points. But the victory did not come easily. The Hoyas were sometimes frustrated by Columbia's stalling tactics and led only 13-11 with 1:32 remaining in the first half.
But a turnover and missed shot by Columbia (4-3) allowed all-America Floyd to hit a 17-footer, and Ewing to slam dunk the Hoyas into a 17-11 lead at intermission.
Georgetown took possession to start the second half, and increased its lead to 19-11 on Ewing's dunk. After the Lions got a free throw from 6-foot-5 center Eric Clarke, Floyd made another long jumper and Fred Brown made two free throws for a 23-12 advantage.
"At halftime, we emphasized scoring first," Georgetown Coach John Thompson said.
Columbia, which took only 27 shots, didn't show enough offensive initiative to come closer than nine points in the second half. The Lions committed 15 turnovers, while making only 11 field goals.
Columbia's plan was to score the first two points and then hold the ball. But Georgetown jumped to an 8-2 lead and never allowed the game to be tied.
The crowd began to boo the underdogs loudly in the first half and implored the Lions to shoot. Columbia passed the ball around the perimeter for four minutes before taking its first shot--a 20-footer by Carl Scholz. The Lions held the ball for two more minutes before their second shot, by 6-4 Richie Gordon, was spiked by Ewing.
When the fans stood near the court after halftime and chanted at the Columbia players to shoot more, Clarke smiled and told one spectator, "We'll take it to them in the second half." They didn't. Columbia high scorers Gordon and 5-7 guard Brad Brown each had six points.
"You don't like to play that way, and the fans don't like to see it," Thompson said. "But he (Columbia Coach Buddy Mahar) played the way he had to. I expected it. I told the kids to expect the slowdown. It's good for us, if we're going to be a good team, to play against a variety of strategies."
Mahar, who joked about his team's inferiority the last two days, never considered any other strategy.
"We don't have the shooters to run with Georgetown," Mahar said. "If we could keep it close, we could hit a couple of shots and do something. But we made too many turnovers . . . just weren't tough with the ball when we needed to be."
The Lions were tough inside, despite their lack of height.
Columbia's 6-6 center Tom Brecht and 7-foot Ewing got into several elbowing and pushing skirmishes in the first half.
"Ewing is 7 feet tall and 100 times better than I am," Brecht said. "I had to do something to take his mind off the game. But he came up to me after the game and said, 'Nice game, no hard feelings.' A lot of guys wouldn't have done that. He's a great player."
Mahar said he was hoping his team could get Ewing into foul trouble early, and lessen the inside mismatch. But with Ewing dominating both ends of the court, Floyd making timely baskets, and Georgetown scoring the first points of each half, the Columbia slowdown fizzled.
"I thought Georgetown got a little frustrated," Brecht said. "It was fortunate for them that they scored the first basket."