But when Henry Sims and his Hoyas teammates emerged from the locker room, they returned to the court with a different strategy, which keyed a game-deciding run and an eventual 81-55 victory at Verizon Center.
Sims assisted on four consecutive backdoor cuts to open the second half, then scored six of his team’s next eight points, a run that turned a four-point edge into a commanding 48-37 lead that the Eagles never challenged.
“My teammates were cutting hard, so I got them the ball,” said Sims, who finished with 17 points and a game-high six assists. All of his assists came in the second half.
As impressive as Sims was, the 6-foot-10 senior had plenty of help in lifting the No. 16 Hoyas (9-1) to their seventh consecutive victory.
Sophomore guard Markel Starks scored a career-high 18 points, hitting four of his six three-point attempts. Junior swingman Hollis Thompson, meantime, scored 15 points, while freshman forward Otto Porter elicited chants of “Otto-matic” for his 10-rebound, eight-point performance.
The real catalyst, though, was an adjustment Georgetown made at halftime. Thompson noted that the backdoor cuts were opening up closer to the hoop and told Sims that he simply needed to be more patient.
“In the first half, offensively, we were going side-to-side too much,” Coach John Thompson III said. “We talked about, at halftime, that we needed to start cutting more [rather than] coming around and settling for long threes.”
In a span of 2 minutes 6 seconds in the opening moments of the second half, Sims, a deft passer for his size, found Nate Lubick twice and Starks and Thompson once each for backdoor layups.
“Henry did a good job of finding the guys,” Thompson III continued. “When we cut in the first half, we were giving up on it and going to the next option to soon.”
The Hoyas were also a better defensive team in the second half. In addition to coming up with six of their eight steals for the game, they keptCharles Hinkle under control and held him to a team-high 16 points. Hinkle entered the afternoon fifth in the nation in scoring at 22.2 points per game.
“They weren’t allowing him to get open looks, and if he caught the ball, they were crowding him,” American Coach Jeff Jones said. “He did try to attack off the dribble and there were two guys there waiting.”
The Eagles (8-4) have lost two straight after winning eight in a row. On Saturday, they were without 6-5 senior guard Troy Brewer, their second-leading scorer. He’s sidelined with turf toe until January.
Asked about the Hoyas’ second-half surge, Jones said: “In the second half, they threw it inside, they crashed the offensive boards, they drove the ball, they were attacking the lane rather than playing on the perimeter as much. I don’t think they were doing different things. I think they were doing things differently.”
The victory was the Hoyas’ eighth straight over American and 34th in a row against a non-league opponent on F Street. They’ll take a significant step up in class in the coming weeks, beginning with Memphis on Thursday.
“We’re a confident group,” Starks said. “Moving forward, we just have to keep getting better.”