Georgetown came into last night's game with the University of Maryland-Baltimore County knowing it had players who could shoot from the outside. What the Hoyas were looking for were some baskets from in close.
That they got, and then some. With both their guards and front court players going almost exclusively inside, the Hoyas pulled away from UMBC in the second half and cruised to an 89-59 win before an announced crowd of 5,088 at Capital Centre.
Mark Tillmon led Georgetown (5-1) with 15 points. Perry McDonald scored 14. But Johnathan Edwards picked up the slack, as well, with 12 points, all in the second half, and Ronnie Highsmith provided eight before fouling out.
The Hoyas' press had caused UMBC problems in the first half, but the Retrievers (3-3) fell apart in the second. They could never get their power forward Kenny Reynolds (18 points, most after the game was decided) inside to post up Georgetown's front court. And when he did, Edwards and Highsmith, along with Anthony Allen, played tough, denying defense.
"We were trying to get inside more, so we could contribute more than last year," said Edwards, who hit six of eight shots, "and try to draw up our image, because the last few years, we haven't been looking too good inside."
"I was very pleased with Highsmith and also Johnathan," Georgetown Coach John Thompson said. "I thought that they needed to contribute, and they did. They had good games."
As an indication of their intention, the Hoyas only took one shot from outside in the first 15 minutes of the first half. Otherwise, Dwayne Bryant and Bobby Winston (back from a sprained left wrist) penetrated inside, pulled up for a foul-line jumper or passed to McDonald or Anthony Tucker (eight points). If there was a miss, McDonald or Tucker rebounded.
Georgetown had 10 offensive rebounds in the first half, 20 overall, to UMBC's one and seven.
"In order for us to be successful in the Big East," Highsmith said, "our play inside has to improve defensively and offensively if we're going to help the team any."
UMBC Coach Jeff Bzdelik said his team was tentative in the second half.
"We played very, very poorly in terms of our paint play," Bzdelik said. "I don't think Georgetown scored that many times from the perimeter. We allowed them in the second half to drive to the lane, in the paint, all the time."
From a 37-27 halftime lead, the Hoyas' press paid immediate dividends. Allen stole the ball from Jeff Reynolds, leading to a three-point play by Tillmon. UMBC committed two more miscues, and Bryant's jumper gave Georgetown a 45-29 edge.
Tucker and Gamel Spencer traded layins, and, after Kenny Reynolds banked one in, Tillmon went down the lane to keep the lead at 16. Edwards then scored six of Georgetown's next eight points, all on transition layins off the press, as the Hoyas pulled to a 21-point lead, 57-36, with 13:10 to play.
"It builds me up," Edwards said of his performance, "gives me more confidence. I needed it going into the Big East. I felt more comfortable tonight. I was filling the lanes, rebounding inside. I feel like I'm starting to get my timing down."
Said Highsmith: "This week in practice, we've been stressing that we haven't been getting the ball inside, and when we're getting it inside, we're not catching the ball strong and we're not making our power moves that we're capable of making."
It was just that type of move by Highsmith, a driving layin, that capped an 18-6 run, giving Georgetown a 65-39 lead, and putting the game out of its misery.
"We never took charge, we just rolled out the red carpet for them," Bzdelik said. "Also, we gave them second and third and fourth and fifth opportunities . . . we did a very poor job of that, and that's why we just got blown out."
The Hoyas shot just 46 percent in the first half, but held UMBC to eight of 19 shooting and three of eight shooting from three-point range. The Retrievers missed five straight shots and committed three turnovers, allowing Georgetown to take a 14-10 lead to 25-13.
The Retrievers gradually got back in the game. Kenny Reynolds hit four consecutive free throws to trim the margin to 28-19, but then missed the front end of a one-and-one that could have sliced the lead to seven.
But Larry Simmons, who had hit on 50 percent (16 of 32) of his three-point field goal attempts coming into the game, connected twice from long range. His second, just left of the key, kept Georgetown's lead at nine, and UMBC stayed within 10 through the half.
"I was worried about this team, because this team beat American University by about 15," Thompson said. "Obviously, they can play. I very seldom go to watch anybody play, but my assistants and I went to see them play. But the kids did okay."