SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Down double-digits and getting pushed around by a much bigger Georgetown team, Northeastern forward Scott Eatherton said panic was the one thing that couldn’t be found during halftime in his team’s locker room.
It showed as the Huskies erased an 11-point halftime deficit and returned the favor in the final 20 minutes by outmuscling the Hoyas down the stretch in a 63-56 victory Thursday in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off.
Reggie Spencer had career-high 18 points and nine rebounds, and Scott Eatherton added 12 points and 10 rebounds — his third double-double in four games — to help Northeastern storm back and hand Georgetown its second loss of the season.
“I thought in the first time we were a little bit, maybe awe-struck,” Northeastern coach Bill Coen said. “We had some turnovers that we don’t normally have and we had some fouls that put us in some rotation problems… Once we figured out we could just play basketball, that helped us.”
The Huskies (2-2) trailed by as many as 14 in the first half, but repeatedly outworked the Hoyas (1-2) underneath in the closing minutes.
Eatherton, who slinked his way inside around Georgetown’s front line which features the 6-foot-10, 350-pound Joshua Smith, said they tried to stick to their strengths.
“We knew how big they were and we had to use our quickness to get around them,” he said. “I got in foul trouble in the beginning of the game, so it was more of a team effort…Me and Reggie just tried to stay low.”
This is the second appearance for Northeastern in the Puerto Rico tournament and its second-ever meeting with the Hoyas. Georgetown won that previous matchup in 1979.
D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera led the Hoyas with 14 points, and they seemed to have the game in hand, but struggled from the free-throw line, going just 17 for 28. They also shot just 23 percent in the second half.
It is the Hoyas first 1-2 start since 1998-99, which was John Thompson Jr.’s final season as Georgetown coach. They fall to the consolation bracket where they will meet Kansas State.
Georgetown coach John Thompson III said Northeastern was simply hungrier.
“This group quickly needs to figure out how to compete,” he said. “Offensive systems, defensive systems, rotations, slides — everything. We need to compete. I thought we did a poor job of just rolling up your sleeves and competing.”
Georgetown saw its advantage disappear midway through the second half as Northeastern mounted a 14-0 run to tie it at 40.
Several ties later, the Huskies finally took their first lead of the game 48-46— on a dunk by Derrico Peck with 6:29 to play in the game.
Settling down some, the Hoyas nudged their way back in front 54-51, but the Huskies weren’t ready to fade. They tied it again at 56 and then went ahead 60-56 on a steal and layup by T.J. Williams with 1:13 left.
Georgetown’s Markel Starks lost the handle driving into the lane and Spencer connected on 1 of 2 from the line. He then punctuated the win with a steal and dunk.
Georgetown led 36-25 at the half.
The Hoyas started fast, scoring the first nine points of the game. It could have been more, but they struggled from the line, connecting on 9 of 16 attempts in the opening 20 minutes.
Northeastern committed nine turnovers, but got a solid half inside from David Walker, who had six points.
Northeastern entered the game known for its 3-point shooting, but won without attempting a shot from beyond the arc in the second half.
The Hoyas were 0 for 8 from 3 in the final 20 minutes and 3 for 16 for the game.
“I think we took too many 3s at the wrong time today,” Thompson said. “We didn’t execute what we were trying to execute. We didn’t execute inside and outside, we didn’t get the ball to the corners enough.”
Hoyas forward Nate Lubick said they were beaten by a better team and echoed Thompson’s call for he and his teammates to do some soul-searching.
“I give them all the credit the world,” he said. “We executed relatively well in the first half, and we did not do anything we needed to do in the second half to continue our execution and do what we need to do to win games.”