Though he insisted his confidence never flagged, Georgetown senior point guard Markel Starks struggled with his long-range shooting through the season’s early going. The antidote arrived with Thursday’s game against High Point.
With its vocal co-captain scoring a game-high 18 points on 8-of-11 shooting, Georgetown rolled to an 80-45 victory over the Panthers, the pride of the Big South Conference but no match for the Hoyas, who were taller and bigger at every position.
Playing smothering defense throughout, Georgetown (5-2) held High Point, a team that had been shooting 51 percent from the field, to just 28 percent and limited its leading scorer, do-it-all sophomore forward John Brown, to a mere eight points.
But for all the defensive fits Georgetown gave High Point (3-4), the Hoyas didn’t exactly light up the scoreboard for an extended stretch in the first half. They made their first three-pointers but then went cold from the field as the turnovers mounted. Georgetown scored just seven points over the final 10 minutes 54 seconds of the half, hitting only one of its last seven shots before the halftime buzzer sounded to take a 28-16 lead into the break.
According to Starks, “some words were exchanged” at the half, which he declined to disclose other than to say that the squad needed to start stronger.
Starks led by example, coming out and scoring the first five points of the second half, spurring a 10-0 run from which High Point never recovered.
“The ball just went in,” Starks said of his strong shooting performance. “I really honestly couldn’t tell you [why]. I’ve been getting up extra reps.”
“Sometimes people think you’re going to toss the ball up and all the sudden the score is going to be 20-0,” Coach John Thompson III said, asked about his offense’s sputtering start. “Our execution wasn’t where it needed to be.”
Blanketed by Smith, High Point’s Brown, a 6-9 forward who was averaging 21.7 points and 9.8 rebounds per game, couldn’t get off a shot through the first five minutes.
Georgetown freshman Reggie Cameron came off the bench and swiftly added to the three-point barrage, fed nicely by Smith.
Moses Ayegba, held out of the previous game by Thompson despite foul trouble along the front-court, returned to action and did a terrific job on the defensive boards, grabbing a game-high eight rebounds.
It was a small turnout for the second in a four-game homestand against mid-major opponents.
Smith picked up his fourth foul and sat with 17:18 remaining. Starks and Jabril Trawick picked up their third soon after.
With a third three-pointer by Smith-Rivera, the Hoyas’ lead was 50-25 with 11:57 to play, prompting a High Point timeout.
But with the Hoyas hitting again from long range, driving for layups and working the ball inside to Smith, who seemed equally content to lay it in as slam it in, there was little the Panthers could do to keep up with the scoring barrage.
Georgetown moved the ball nicely, finishing with 23 assists on 32 baskets.
Notes: High Point was missing its second-most prolific scorer, Baltimore native Allan Chaney, whose promising college career has been limited by a heart ailment that was diagnosed shortly after he transferred from Florida to Virginia Tech. Fitted with a defibrillator, the 6-9, 240-pound Chaney was never medically cleared to play for the Hokies and transferred to High Point.
He competed without incident last season, but had a scare during a Nov. 24 game against Wofford that triggered his defibrillator, and he has been sidelined since. . . . The Hoyas have less than a 48-hour turnaround, due back at Verizon Center for a noon game Saturday against Colgate.