Georgetown has shown a remarkable adaptability in playing to the preferred style of its opponents this season, whether running and gunning with Memphis or operating in a half-court battle with Providence.
For all intents and purposes, South Florida’s game plan Saturday seemed to be play as horrible as possible and hope the No. 14 Hoyas followed suit.
In the first half, the Bulls’ strategy worked to perfection.
Both squads appeared to be sleepwalking through the 11 a.m. start, as South Florida’s deliberate pace mixed with both teams’ inability to hit shots led to a miserable exhibition that left many in the Verizon Center crowd stifling yawns.
“I don’t like these early morning games, but I don’t think the start had anything to do with it,” Hoyas coach John Thompson III said. “We tried to get up and practice early to be ready for this.”
As bad as the first half was, though, the final 20 minutes showed why the Hoyas’ depth and balance makes them so dangerous.
Georgetown (18-4) shot a stellar 65 percent down the stretch, turning an eight-point halftime lead into a laugher, cruising 75-45 over the Bulls and moving to 8-3 in the Big East in advance of Wednesday’s showdown against first-place Syracuse.
The margin of victory was the Hoyas’ largest conference win since a 32-point thumping of St. John’s in 2008. And five Hoyas scored in double figures, led by Henry Sims’ 13 points, the first time that has happened since a victory over Villanova in 2009-10.
“This is a group that shares the ball, that doesn’t care about who scores the points,” Thompson said. “That just shows how unselfish this group is.”
The notion that the Hoyas would score 52 points in the second half seemed unthinkable early on, when the two best defenses in the conference went about smothering each other.
South Florida (13-10, 6-4) went on an improbable 10:52 drought, the scoreboard stuck on an ignominious “5” for what seemed like an eternity. During that stretch, the Bulls coughed the ball up 11 times.
Georgetown, however, failed to take advantage, going 9:29 without a field goal of its own – a brutal stretch of basketball that ended in a 23-15 halftime score and with everyone searching for a jolt of caffeine to shake them out of their stupor.
“We were fine,” guard Jason Clark said. “We felt that we weren’t scoring the ball, but I don’t think we were frustrated because we were playing good defense. We just had to keep playing defense and we knew our shots were going to fall.”
They did start falling, as the jumpers that rimmed out found a home and Georgetown’s patented back cuts found room as South Florida started falling out of position on defense.
“We got real frustrated offensively the more we couldn’t score,” Bulls coach Stan Heath said. “All of a sudden, the avalanche opened up, especially with the back-door scoring and the 3-point shooting. That’s what you have to take away from Georgetown.”
After a series of taut home triumphs, a victory where Thompson III could clear the bench was a perfect scenario.
“Absolutely,” he said with a wry smile. “Absolutely.”