MIAMI, DEC. 30 -- Florida International University has a spiffy gym called Sunblazer Arena that is as new as its basketball team. No. 19 Georgetown looked very staid and very Eastern, if not very efficient, with a 78-52 victory tonight in these strange aquamarine surroundings.
This is the first season of Division I basketball for the Golden Panthers (1-8) after six years in Division II, and Georgetown's mission here was partly one of charity in helping a fledgling program get under way. But it was also a warmup for a meeting with Miami Saturday, which is, in turn, supposed to be a warmup for the Big East. With that in mind, the young Hoyas' performance in a turnover-filled contest marked by spotty rebounding and loose ball handling was only partly satisfactory.
"We used a lot of combos and we were not fluid," Georgetown Coach John Thompson said. "And I got angry, of course."
The Hoyas (8-1) led by 39-20 at halftime and 17 points were as close as the Golden Panthers would get throughout the second period. Georgetown's biggest margin was 28, which it held on two occasions, including a 78-50 lead with 59 seconds left as guard Jaren Jackson led all scorers with 21 points.
Thirteen Hoyas eventually entered the game. Guard Mark Tillmon with 14 points and forward Perry McDonald with 10 were the only other Hoyas in double figures as they shot 45 percent for the game, but suffered 18 turnovers.
A record crowd of 3,087 came to this airy arena to see a Georgetown team that was the first ranked opponent to play here. There was little else to watch in the Golden Panthers, who shot 23 percent from the field, just 14 percent in the first half, and turned the ball over 20 times, 10 times on steals.
Sylvester Whigham led the Panthers with 10 points. Nevertheless, they kept it a strangely respectable game as they were outrebounded only 59-49, got their share of loose balls with quickness, and frequently upset Georgetown's efforts with knees and elbows and anything else handy.
"I don't think we came as close to what we wanted to do as Coach would have liked," Tillmon said. "They got a lot of loose balls and kind of outhustled us. That's supposed to be Georgetown's game, hustling."
For that, the Panthers deserved credit. This was their seventh straight loss, and their third game in as many nights. Tuesday they lost to Clemson by 98-47 as Elden Campbell scored 24 points in the first half to match the Panthers' halftime score. In Georgetown they met a team that leads the country in defense, and wins by an average of 31.2 points.
"I was frightened coming into this," said Rich Walker, Florida International's first and only head basketball coach, who in his sixth season has jumped from Division II to Division I. "I didn't know if we had anything in our reserve tank. But they played to the best of their ability and tried hard. Maybe too hard on offense. We just couldn't put the ball in the hole."
Georgetown's 39-20 lead at halftime could have been much bigger as the Panthers shot 14 percent in the period and got eight of the points from the foul line. It took FIU until the 10:41 mark to put five points on the board. In the meantime, Georgetown scored 20.
The highlight for the Panthers came shortly thereafter, when they put four straight points together.
The closest the Panthers came in the second half was when Robert Rowe's layup cut it to 39-22.
"They keep coming at you; they're relentless, and they don't back down," Rowe said.
The Hoyas will meet Miami at 7:30 p.m. Saturday in Miami.