But Coach Patrick Ewing found flaws in the way his Hoyas went about the second half, failing to bury the Bears and displaying blemishes he fears will cost them victories when matters turn serious this season.
“We started off with a lot more energy and effort, definitely,” he said. “But in the second half we took a step back. We just kept trading baskets with them. We can’t do that against good teams. Not to say they are not a good team, but the better teams are the teams we are going to be facing soon.”
The level of competition will increase Thursday against Penn State and later this month in New York against Texas and either Duke or California. Then the Big East campaign begins New Year’s Eve.
The Hoyas (2-0) were outscored by the Bears (1-2) in the second half and committed 19 turnovers overall, many unforced. Although the outcome was not in question, it left Ewing unfulfilled.
“We can’t do that, especially when we get into the Big East time of the season,” he said of the mistakes.
The Hoyas won Saturday because they shot 50 percent from the field and ran off 12 consecutive points late in the first half en route to a 54-42 lead at intermission.
Omer Yurtseven, a 7-foot Turkish center who transferred from N.C. State, continued to post impressive numbers: 17 points on 7-for-10 shooting, 15 rebounds and three blocked shots in just 19 minutes. He had 13 points and 12 rebounds in the first half.
Bears Coach Russ Pennell came away impressed.
“He is a load,” Pennell said. “So much of post play now, with the game going to all [big men] shooting threes and that kind of stuff, it’s refreshing to see someone that knows who he is and what they want him to be.”
Central Arkansas’ 7-footer, Hayden Koval, was an outside force, making 4 of 5 three-pointers and finishing with 21 points.
Besides scoring inside, Yurtseven (20 points, 12 rebounds in the opener) drew attention in the low post and opened the perimeter for teammates to find their shooting range.
Asked if Yurtseven is exceeding expectations, Ewing said: “That is still yet to come. I expect great things out of him. He has the size, he has the athleticism, and he has the ability to be a dominant force in college basketball.”
But Ewing added, “His effort needs to be a lot better.”
Jagan Mosely made all four field goals, including two three-pointers, and added 13 points. Combined 8-for-11 shooting by Mosely and Jamorko Pickett helped offset 1-for-10 accuracy by Mac McClung.
Ewing flexed his roster depth by playing 11 players at least four minutes in the first half. By the end of the game, all 11 had scored at least four points.
“I’m not sure how deep I want to go,” Ewing said of the rotation. “I’m sure a lot of them are not happy with the minutes they got, but there are going to be nights when we are going to go with 10, 11 guys. There are going to be nights when the rotation is going to be short.”
The Hoyas used their depth and superior talent to pull away before halftime, a far cry from the unsettling start to the opener.
“We realized starting off is really important,” Yurtseven said. “It’s going to matter a lot when we play against tougher opponents when we are not going to be able to maybe in 20 minutes get back from a 19-point deficit.”
In the second half, the margin never dipped to less than nine but never grew to more than 15.
“Basically it was like we were playing ping-pong,” Mosely said. “We scored, they scored.”
Ewing is aiming for growth.
“It’s a work in progress,” he said. “We still have a long way to go from now to where we want to be at the end of the year.”