The Georgetown men’s basketball team played its first game since returning from a holiday tournament in Hawaii, and for a good chunk of the opening half against Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis on Monday, the Hoyas appeared lodged in vacation mode.
Then shortly before intermission, Georgetown cranked it up defensively, got scoring contributions from five players during a decisive run bridging the halves and coasted to an 81-58 victory before 6,854 at Verizon Center.
“It was like we were stuck in mud almost with a lot of our defensive rotations,” Hoyas Coach John Thompson III said of his team’s early travails. “They were getting too many open, easy shots. That’s not who we are, but you have to give [the Jaguars] credit. They came out and executed, and then in the second half, our guys ramped it up a little bit.”
Junior forward Hollis Thompson led the way with a game-high 21 points to go along with 10 rebounds for his second career double-double, and senior center Henry Sims added 14 points, four rebounds and three assists. Sophomore point guard Markel Starks had 13 points on 6-for-9 shooting with four assists in a game in which the Hoyas had a season-low seven turnovers.
Georgetown also limited the Jaguars to 35 percent shooting, including just 14 for 49 after IUPUI started 7 for 11. Senior forward Alex Young scored the first four baskets of the game, including a pair of three-pointers, for IUPUI. There were a half dozen NBA scouts in attendance to evaluate the pro prospect.
But after 16 points in the first half, Young went scoreless the rest of the way — “We just said, ‘Let’s defend him,’ ” Starks said — against robust defensive pressure that fueled a 15-2 run beginning with two minutes to play until halftime. The surge started with guard Jason Clark making 1 of 2 free throws, and when Starks scored on a layup via a feed from Thompson with 16 minutes left in the game, the Hoyas led 42-31.
In between, Georgetown (5-1) got a pair of baskets from Thompson, an acrobatic spinning layup in the lane from Starks and an energizing two-handed slam by sophomore forward Nate Lubick off Thompson’s pass. After a first half in which he missed several layups and played somewhat tentative, Lubick finished perhaps stronger than any of his teammates with a career-high 14 rebounds as well as five assists, no turnovers and eight points.
“I struggled early on a little bit, but I just kept playing,” said Lubick, who was coming off an 0-for-6 showing in a 91-88 victory over Memphis at the Maui Invitational. “Second half, once we got things going, I started playing a little better, and we all started playing a lot better as a group.”
With 8 minutes 29 seconds to go, Georgetown bumped its advantage to 60-46 on a 9-2 push that opened when Thompson swished a baseline jumper and followed with a layup. Freshman forward Greg Whittington made a three-pointer, and after Stephen Thomas’s jumper cut it to 12, Sims answered with a layup that all but settled the outcome.
Clearly fatigued, the Jaugars (2-5) missed 6 of 7 free throws from that point, and Georgetown continued to pour it on. Thompson made his second three-pointer during that stretch for a 65-48 buffer before freshman forward Otto Porter’s jumper and a pair of foul shots by Clark made it 69-49 with 3:33 to play.
The Hoyas won their third game in a row despite Clark’s least productive shooting performance of the season. In 29 minutes, the senior captain finished with seven points in shooting just 1 for 7, including missing all four of his three-point attempts. Clark had averaged 23 points and shot 57 percent in the Maui Invitational, where the Hoyas went 2-1.
Clark did manage to reach 1,000 points for his career on this night, and Georgetown wound up shooting 57 percent in the second half despite his rocky outing. The Hoyas also made 10 of 13 foul shots, nearly matching their second best percentage of the season, and limited IUPUI to 1 of 10 from three-point range in the second half.
“I think defensively we hold ourselves to a certain standard,” Hollis Thompson said. “In the first half that really wasn’t where we would like to think of ourselves defensively, so in the second half we recognized that and made the proper adjustments.”