Just two days after needing a last-second three-point to escape Alabama with a win, Georgetown made sure it would need no late-game heroics in its first game back home.
The Hoyas (7-1) routed NJIT (3-4) 84-44, taking advantage of opening runs in each period to keep the Highlanders from ever being competitive.
The hero of the Alabama game, junior forward Hollis Thompson, didn’t miss a beat against the Highlanders, draining three shots from beyond the arc during the Hoyas’ game opening 16-2 run. In just 19 minutes, Thompson scored 20 points to lead all scorers and hit a career-high six three-pointers on seven attempts.
“Before he leaves here, that will not be his career-high,” head coach John Thompson III said.
Thompson and his fellow starters’ services weren’t needed for long, but they made their mark on the game. Senior guard Jason Clark reached double-digits with 10 points, sophomore Markel Starks hit two threes en route to nine points of his own, and senior center Henry Sims made his mark down low, grabbing five rebounds and blocking two shots to go along with eight points.
In general, the Hoya big men were able to dominate against an undersized and overmatched NJIT frontcourt. Georgetown blocked a season-high 13 shots and outrebounded the Highlanders by a margin of 47-22.
“I’d like to have 6-8 or 6-9 guys who can do the same things they do,” NJIT head coach Jim Engles said. “I think I’d be a pretty damn good coach.”
Still, the Highlanders didn’t go down without a fight, clawing back after the Hoyas’ opening run. Guard-forwards Isaiah Wilkerson and Ryan Woods combined for 24 points in the first half, and NJIT kept pace with Georgetown to enter the locker room down by just 12 points.
“We weren’t communicating well with each other in the first half,” Coach Thompson said. “They got too many open looks just because of our lack of communication—when we were switching, when we were not switching.”
Communication wasn’t a problem for the Hoyas in the second half. The team came out with a renewed intensity on the defensive end, holding the Highlanders scoreless for the first six minutes of the second period. NJIT didn’t hit a field goal until the 10:55 mark, by which point the Hoyas had gone on a 25-2 run.
The comfortable lead allowed plenty of playing time for Georgetown’s young bench players, many of whom saw their longest action of their short careers. Thompson called their experience “productive,” saying that they’ll be needed when the Hoyas’ reach Big East play.
Still, Georgetown’s six freshmen, who shared the court for the late part of the second half, played nearly as well as their veteran counterparts. Mikael Hopkins led the newcomers with 12 points, and Tyler Adams, who is still recovering from a sprained ankle, had eight points, six boards, and three blocks. Watching from the bench, the Hoyas’ captain wasn’t surprised by what he saw.
“Nobody on this team is afraid to go [in practice],” Clark said. “I think the young guys go at the older guys, the older guys go back at the young guys.”
With three wins in six days (besides No. 12 Alabama, the Hoyas also knocked off IUPUI on Monday), Georgetown is likely headed for the national rankings for the first time this season. Both Clark and his coach downplayed the importance of the rankings, however. They know from experience that a number by your team’s name in December means nothing in March.
“It’s not the time of year to be happy where you are—or unhappy,” Thompson said. “We’re still sitting at the table, so asking me if we’re happy is like asking me to count your money. It’s not about being happy or unhappy. We have to continue to get better.”