No. 22 Georgetown 69, South Florida 49

Georgetown coach John Thompson III has a remarkable knack for

making a difficult game sound simple.

Take, for instance, his approach to guarding Dominique Jones.

The South Florida star ripped apart the Hoyas the last time the two

teams met, and was coming off an impressive performance that helped

his team reach the second round of the Big East tournament.

“I just yelled at the guys, ‘Guard him!”’ Thompson said,

grinning.

They sure listened, and didn’t stop with the league’s

second-leading scorer. The No. 22 Hoyas frustrated South Florida

all over the court in a 69-49 second-round victory Wednesday,

propelling them into a marquee matchup with regular-season champion

Syracuse.

Jason Clark and Greg Monroe scored 16 points each Georgetown

(21-9), which held the Bulls to a season-low 29.1 percent from the

field – pretty decent even by Thompson’s stringent standards. It

was the second straight game and fifth time this season that an

opponent failed to break 50 against the Hoyas’ numbing defense.

“We really struggled to find a shot,” South Florida coach Stan

Heath said. “It happened yesterday and today it really caught up

to us, not being able to hit a perimeter jumpshot.”

Chris Wright added 15 points for the eighth-seeded Hoyas (21-9),

who won a tournament game for the first time in two years. They

were likely already in the NCAA tournament but now have the chance

to improve their seeding with a deep run at Madison Square

Garden.

The matchup with No. 3 Syracuse on Thursday is a tantalizing

one. The Big East heavyweights have split 12 meetings in the

tournament, although the Orange won both games in the regular

season.

“They’re a good team, they can beat you so many ways,”

Thompson said. “They’re long, they have a terrific defense, so we

just need to come out and execute at both ends of the floor.”

If they execute anything like they did on the defensive end

against South Florida, Thompson has to figure the Hoyas have a

chance.

Georgetown built a 14-point first-half lead relying almost

entirely on defense, holding the Bulls without a field goal for

nearly 8 minutes. Jones seemed to be especially frustrated, unable

to create any open looks.

The league’s second-leading scorer finally started hitting late

in the first half, helping get South Florida within 44-36 with

about 13 minutes left in the game. At one point over an 18-minute

stretch spanning both halves, Jones scored or had an assist on each

of his team’s field goals.

He finished with 21 points, but was unable to keep up the pace

in the closing minutes. The Hoyas answered his push behind a pair

of baskets from Wright and a deep jumper by Austin Freeman.

“I just feel like we had open shots and we missed ’em – I

missed ’em – and you can’t beat a Top 25 team, a Big East team,

missing shots,” Jones said. “It’s hard to beat times like that

when you’re not hitting shots from the outside.”

Even when the Hoyas’ only legitimate inside threat, Julian

Vaughn, fouled out with about 9 minutes remaining, the Bulls

couldn’t sustain a run. The lead swelled to 20 as a small

contingent of sleepy fans began chanting “Let’s Go Hoyas” – no

doubt unaccustomed to the early start that comes with being a high

seed in the Big East tournament.

Vaughn may have been happy to take a seat on the bench even with

plenty of time left.

After a timeout in the first half, the 6-foot-9 junior walked

over to a bucket sitting courtside and promptly vomited. Vaughn

didn’t even bother to get a drink of water, wiping his face on his

jersey and heading back onto the court moments later.

The Bulls may have a similar uneasiness in the pit of their

stomach as they wait to hear whether 20 wins playing in one of the

toughest conferences in the country gets them in the NCAA

tournament.