- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 10, 2010

NEW YORK | Jason Clark and Greg Monroe scored 16 points each, and No. 22 Georgetown built a big first-half lead before handling everything South Florida star Dominique Jones could offer in a 69-49 victory Wednesday in the Big East tournament.

Chris Wright also had 15 points for the eighth-seeded Hoyas (21-9), who were likely already in the NCAA tournament but now have the chance to improve their seeding with a deep run in the tourney. They’ll play No. 1 seed Syracuse in the quarterfinals Thursday.

The two conference heavyweights have split their 12 meetings in the Big East tournament.

Georgetown built a 14-point first-half lead relying mostly on defense, which was good even by coach John Thompson III’s stringent standards. South Florida (20-12) didn’t score for nearly eight minutes, and Jones couldn’t find open looks as the Hoyas rotated over to guard him.

The league’s second-leading scorer finally started hitting late in the half and into the second, helping to get South Florida within 44-36 with about 13 minutes left. But the Hoyas answered the push behind a pair of baskets from Wright and a deep jumper by Austin Freeman, allowing Georgetown to coast toward its first Big East tournament win in two years.

Jones finished with 21 points for the Bulls, but he didn’t get much help from a team that shot a meager 29.1 percent for the game. At one point over an 18-minute stretch spanning both halves, Jones either scored or had an assist on each of his team’s field goals.

The 6-foot-4 guard couldn’t keep up his pace late in the second half, though, missing three straight shots and turning the ball once as Georgetown built its lead back to 53-39 with 7:58 to go.

Even when the Hoyas’ only legitimate inside threat, Julian Vaughn, fouled out with about 9 minutes remaining, the Bulls couldn’t sustain a run. The lead swelled to more than 20 in the closing minutes as a small contingent of sleepy fans began chanting “Let’s Go Hoyas” — no doubt unaccustomed to the early start that comes with being a high seed in the Big East tournament.

Vaughn may have been happy to take a seat on the bench even with plenty of time left.

After a timeout in the first half, the 6-9 junior walked over to a bucket sitting courtside and promptly vomited. Vaughn didn’t even bother to get a drink of water, wiping his face on his jersey and heading back onto the court moments later.

South Florida coach Stan Heath said after Tuesday’s opening-round victory over DePaul that his team needed to keep winning to make the NCAA tournament. Now he’s left to ponder whether 20 wins in one of the toughest conferences in the country is enough for the Bulls’ first bid since 1992.

Regardless, it’s been a remarkable turnaround for a team that went just 9-22 last season and won only four Big East games. Twice the Bulls rattled off four-game winning streaks after the start of the conference season, including back-to-back victories against Pittsburgh and at Georgetown. The 20 wins matches the second-best total in school history.

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