- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 17, 2011

No. 16 Georgetown led American at halftime Saturday. It sure didn’t feel like it.

The usually sure-handed Hoyas committed nine turnovers before the break, providing a listless start to an intra-city game.

There was nothing sluggish about the next 20 minutes.

Georgetown rolled to an 81-55 victory at Verizon Center, providing a much different start to the second half than the opening moments of the game.

“We started off the game, I feel like, several of our first possessions were turnovers,” coach John Thompson III said. “I don’t remember, but I feel as though three of the first five were turnovers. You start off in a rut.”

His memory was close. The Hoyas (9-1) had three turnovers and scored only once in their first six possessions. At the start of the second half, Georgetown had 24 points in its first 16 trips.

“Georgetown came out in the second half and came right at us,” American coach Jeff Jones said. “We obviously didn’t respond very well and didn’t have an answer.”

What was tight throughout the first half quickly turned into a blowout. The Hoyas shot 21-for-31 from the floor after the break and needed a little more than five minutes to seize a double-digit lead for good.

Most notably, the Hoyas committed only three more turnovers.

“We had nine turnovers in the first half,” Thompson said. “I think that might have led to what happened in the second half.”

Five more observations from Saturday …

* Sims‘ communication. Georgetown senior Henry Sims scored 17 points, the third-highest total of his career. He had six assists, his second best distribution total in four seasons. He had a hand in 11 of the Hoyas’ 21 field goals in the second half (six assists, five baskets).

Yet Thompson was most pleased with something else.

“I think he was best today at his communication on defense,” Thompson said. “The whole time you heard Henry talking, and our defense got better in the second half because I thought our talking got better. He was outstanding. You heard Henry’s voice calling screens, calling a switch, watch this. I think that’s what he did better than anything.”

* Hinkle works for his points. American’s Charles Hinkle entered the day averaging 22.2 points, clearly establishing himself as the nexus of the Eagles’ offense.

The senior was held to 16 points, his second-lowest total of the season, on 13 shots from the floor. Hinkle frequently works his way to the foul line, but had only three free-throw attempts against Georgetown.

“We wanted to make him drive, and when he drove we wanted to sit on it and make him dish out to his teammates,” Georgetown’s Hollis Thompson said. “I thought we did a decent job of that.”

At that point, Thompson looked over at his coach. John Thompson III simply smiled. Decent was plenty good enough since the Hoyas were clearly wary of what Hinkle could do.

“They were playing a lot of attention to him,” Jones said. “They were switching out on screens, they weren’t allowing him to get open looks. When he caught the ball, they were crowding him and if he did try to attack off the dribble, there were one or two guys there.”

* Superlatives for Starks. When little else went right for the Hoyas’ offense, Markel Starks made three 3-pointers in as many trips down the floor. He finished the game with a career-high 18 points.

“It was just a good day,” Starks said. “I told our manager, Eddie Bradley, I told him ‘I’m loose. I feel pretty good today.’ I shot it pretty well.”

And shot it, period. Starks made four 3-pointers against the Eagles. The sophomore had never tried more than four in a game until Saturday.

* Brewer missing. American (8-4) played without the injured Troy Brewer, who is averaging 14.1 points. That led Jones to make his first starting lineup change of the season, slipping Blake Jolivette (11 points) into Brewer’s slot.

“He’s one of our better players,” Jones said. “We would have liked to have had him out there. Bigger picture, that was what I decided what we needed to do. How much of a difference that would have made, I don’t know. But we’re clearly better with Troy in the lineup.”

* Not getting easier. The Hoyas are off to a 9-1 start (or better) for the fifth straight season. Maintaining it won’t necessarily be smooth.

Georgetown plays host to Memphis on Thursday, then plays its last 18 games against Big East competition. As well as the Hoyas have played, starts like Saturday’s are likely to be punished more severely going forward.