- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 6, 2009

Georgetown is ready for an entree-sized opponent.

The 16th-ranked Hoyas overcame a slow start to conclude the cupcake portion of their early season schedule with a 73-46 victory over American on Saturday at Verizon Center. With six unranked opponents vanquished during the confidence-building tipoff to the season, the Hoyas now face a bellwether week with road games against top-25 denizens Butler (Tuesday) and Washington (Saturday).

“I’m looking forward to it, and I think my teammates are, too,” sophomore center Greg Monroe (nine points, 13 rebounds) said after notching a career high in rebounds against the undersized Eagles (1-8). “I think my teammates and I are ready for the limelight.”

The Georgetown bunch that sleep-walked through the game’s opening minutes against overmatched American certainly didn’t look prepared for prime time. In spite of losing the three-man nucleus from last season’s NCAA tournament team to graduation, the Eagles matched the Hoyas at 9-9 on a short jumper from Nick Hendra with 12:00 remaining in the first half.

And while few members of the sparse crowd confused the sluggish start for an upset threat, the Hoyas needed a defensive lift from Jason Clark for the second consecutive game. Just as he did in the team’s Monday victory over Mount St. Mary’s, Clark sparked the Hoyas to life with his superlative play at the top of Georgetown’s defensive umbrella. The sophomore collected four first-half steals in less than four minutes, leading the Hoyas to a 19-9 lead on a swipe and driving dunk with 9:13 remaining.

“He’s got great anticipation, which combined with his 7-foot wingspan gives him great ability to get in the passing lanes,” American coach Jeff Jones said of Clark, who finished with nine points, five steals and two assists. “That’s what you saw in the first half. We’re hanging around, and then he makes a couple of steals on one end and easy finishes on the other, and all of a sudden we’re not [hanging around].”

Clark’s defensive mini-spurt was all the Hoyas needed to rattle the young Eagles, who were already struggling mightily on the offensive end. After leading by 11 points at the break, the entire second half involved Georgetown gradually pummeling the Eagles inside and out on both ends of the floor. By the time Hendra managed American’s third field goal after intermission, the Hoyas had amassed a 50-30 lead with just over 11:00 remaining and Georgetown coach John Thompson III already was well down his bench, attempting to prepare his reserves for next week’s challenge and beyond.

Six Hoyas players finished with nine or more points, led by junior point man Chris Wright (12 points, three assists) and sophomore reserve Henry Sims, a 6-foot-10 center from Baltimore. The latter had looked confused and discombobulated during the team’s first five games but established a new career-high by collecting 12 points in just 13 minutes against the Eagles. Though most of his points came on point-blank putbacks against the much smaller American frontcourt, Sims looked comfortable within the flow of the Georgetown system for the first time all season.

American never found anything remotely resembling rhythm, shooting just 27.1 percent. The Hoyas (6-0) dominated on the boards 43-32 and also tallied nine blocked shots.

“They just do a great job with Monroe and [Julian] Vaughn and Sims of taking away any shots you get inside,” Jones said. “I think [Georgetown] has the ability to be very good. Certainly from what I saw where I sat today and what I saw on film, I think they have a chance to be one of the best teams in the nation by the season’s end.”

• Barker Davis can be reached at bdavis@washingtontimes.com.

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