After an inelegant first half that featured a combined 38 points scored by both teams, Saturday’s matchup between No. 14 Georgetown and South Florida still was up for grabs at the start of the second half.
The Hoyas, however, made sure there was little suspense down the stretch.
Led by Henry Sims’s 13 points and four other Hoyas who reached double figures, Georgetown tallied 16 of the game’s first 20 points after halftime en route to a 75-45 victory, their most lopsided Big East triumph in four years.
“There were no major changes that we made at halftime,” Coach John Thompson III said. “We just said, ‘Keep doing what you’re doing and the ball will go in, fellas.’ I don’t think we had better energy in the second half, I just think the ball started to go in.”
The victory was the second in a row for Georgetown (18-4, 8-3) and its fifth in the past six meetings with South Florida. It also marked the first time in 66 games the Hoyas had five players score 10 or more points. Sims’s total topped a quintet that also included Otto Porter (12 points), Jason Clark (11) and 10 points apiece from Markel Starks and Jabril Trawick.
“This is a group that shares the ball,” Thompson said. “This is a group that doesn’t care who scores the points and this is a group you can put five guys on the court that can score.”
That said, there was precious little scoring in the first half – from either team. Augustus Gilchrist and South Florida (13-10, 6-4) endured a scoreless drought that lasted 10 minutes 52 seconds, and the Bulls had scored only five points until Gilchrist hit a three-pointer with 4:12 left to play. The visitors also committed 11 of their 17 turnovers in the opening 20 minutes.
Georgetown, meantime, wasn’t a whole lot better at the offensive end. The Hoyas went 9:29 without a field goal against a South Florida team that entered allowing a Big East-low 59 points per game. And although Thompson conceded that he doesn’t like 11 a.m. tip-offs, he said he doesn’t believe the early start time affected the quality of play in the first half.
“We felt we were getting stops and we knew the shots were going to start going in,” Thompson said. “They had 15 points at halftime and probably six of those we gave them. As long as we get stops and rebounds, we will be able to score enough points. So it was not disconcerting at all.”
Like his Georgetown counterpart, Bulls Coach Stan Heath remained positive when addressing his players, despite trailing 23-15 at the break. He also took the opportunity to remind his players of the 72-64 upset the Bulls pulled on the Verizon Center floor in February 2010.
“I felt we played horrible in the first half and we were down by eight,” Heath said. “We had a little momentum with the layup at the end and I kind of reminded the team, ‘Hey, we were down by [nine] a couple of years ago and found a way to pull it out.’ ”
But on Saturday, there was no second-half magic for the Bulls. And for the Hoyas, there was no looking ahead to Wednesday’s showdown at Big East-leading and second-ranked Syracuse.
Gilchrist missed a pair of free throws in the opening seconds, then Hollis Thompson (seven points) scored on a layup to extend the Hoyas’ lead to 25-15. Jumpers by Starks, Sims and Porter on Georgetown’s next three possessions gave the hosts a 31-17 advantage.
Moments later, Starks made a three-pointer and Sims sank both free of his free throws to give the Hoyas a 39-19 lead. Georgetown’s 30-point margin of victory was its biggest since a 74-42 win over St. John’s in January 2008.
“We came out in the second half and just fell into a rhythm and shots started going in,” said Starks, whose point total was the highest in his past five games.
Added Sims, who also had five assists and finished a rebound shy of his second career double-double: “In the second half, things just opened up a little bit more and it became easier to find guys.”
After the game, Thompson joked that Sims got cheated out of a rebound.
“I have to watch the film,” he cracked before turning around and asking Sims, “Didn’t you [get another rebound], Henry?”
Sims smiled and nodded, “Yeah.”