Georgetown coach John Thompson III had a quick answer for why his No. 16 Hoyas got off to such a good start in the second half of Thursday night’s 70-59 win against the Memphis Tigers.
”Great halftime adjustments by the coach,” Thompson deadpanned.
The explanation made sense, given Georgetown took a seven-point halftime lead and turned it into a 20-point margin in the first 8 minutes after the half, including a 7-0 run to start the period. But Thompson quickly made sure everyone knew he was joking.
”No, I’m not sure. I think at halftime we settled down a little bit,” he said. ”I don’t even remember the halftime talk. There wasn’t anything major adjusted.”
Whatever the reason, Georgetown’s early second-half dominance put the game out of reach, despite a late surge by Memphis. The Hoyas never trailed as they extended their win streak to eight games. Georgetown also improved its record to 10-1, the fifth straight year they’ve opened with that mark.
Jason Clark scored 18 points and Hollis Thompson added 17 for the Hoyas.
Chris Crawford scored 17 and Will Barton had 12 points and 11 rebounds for the Tigers, who have lost three of their last four games. Memphis coach Josh Pastner kept the locker room closed for more than 90 minutes after the game before addressing the media.
”We just had a team meeting and needed to air a few things out,” Pastner said. ”No one in there is happy to be 6-5. Have we played a tough schedule? Darn right. But we’re too good to be sitting at 6-5. We’re going to find a way to take this into a positive. We have no other option.”
The teams were playing a rare regular-season, non-conference rematch. Georgetown, unranked at the time, defeated then-No. 8 Memphis 91-88 in overtime in the fifth-place game of the Maui Invitational on Nov. 23. The roles were reversed for this contest, with the Hoyas holding the national ranking.
Georgetown didn’t need overtime to sweep the season series, taking control with runs to close out the first half and open the second. The Hoyas closed the opening period with a 6-0 run in the final 1 1/2 minutes, capped by Henry Sims’ massive fast-break dunk with 7 seconds left.
”That definitely boosted our confidence,” said Sims, who finished with 12 points and nine rebounds. ”We made a little run at the end of the half and it gave us the momentum.”
Georgetown came out after halftime and simply overwhelmed Memphis. Thompson’s 3-pointer about 45 seconds in pushed the lead to double-digits for the first time – 40-28 – and the margin kept growing.
The Hoyas scored the first seven points of the half before Crawford converted a three-point play with 17:58 left. Georgetown answered with another 7-0 run.
The Hoyas built the lead to 54-34, outscoring Memphis 19-6 over the first 8 minutes of the second half.
Instead of accepting the blowout once they were down 20, the Tigers came alive, using a 13-2 run to cut the lead to 58-49 with 8 1/2 minutes to play, helped by three straight turnovers by Georgetown.
”For most of tonight, our defense was very very good,” Thompson said. ”I feel like a large percentage of their points were when we had turnovers, mistakes that we made, that led to transition baskets.”
Memphis was able to cut the lead to seven points with about 4 minutes to go, but in the end the deficit proved too large for Memphis to overcome.
”It’s always good to beat a team two times in a row,” Clark said. ”That’s the type of game we want to have when we play in the Big East.”
Except for the stretch when Memphis made its comeback, it was the Tigers who were plagued by turnovers. Memphis had four turnovers on its first seven possessions and turned the ball over 10 times in the first half, finishing with 18.
For much of the game, the Hoyas kept the Tigers from their preferred fast-paced game, as Memphis scored just eight fast-break points.
Georgetown also won the rebounding battle, pulling down 38 boards – including 16 offensive rebounds – to Memphis’ 29.
”When we play a team that fast breaks like they do, you’re always nervous about getting back,” Thompson said. ”But because they fast break, they kind of leak out and that provides offensive rebound opportunities for us.”
Georgetown started strong, opening up a nine-point lead about 8 minutes into the game. The Hoyas seemed to be on the brink of building a much larger lead when Greg Whittington was called for the first of two offensive fouls in the space of 2 minutes – the second one deemed flagrant – and the Tigers took back the momentum.
Memphis tied the game at 23 with 7 minutes left in the first half, but was unable to move ahead.