Hoyas dominate UConn at packed Verizon Center

February 2, 2012

All season, the Georgetown men’s basketball team has stressed the need to play a game with a full 40 minutes of consistent effort. The Hoyas got close on Wednesday, but even 37 minutes or so was more than enough for a double-digit victory.

Hollis Thompson had a bounce-back game with 18 points, and No. 14 Georgetown (17-4, 7-3 Big East) recovered from a double-digit loss to Pittsburgh on Saturday with a resounding 58-44 victory over Connecticut (14-7, 4-5 Big East).

The Hoyas got those bad minutes out of the way early. After falling into an early hole against the Panthers out of which they were not able to climb, the Hoyas looked like they were headed for a repeat performance against UConn. The Huskies seemed unstoppable in the first two and half minutes of the game, connecting on their first four shots.

Freshman center Andre Drummond was particularly impressive, pulling a spinning post move for an easy layup before slamming home an alley-oop. After the dunk put the Huskies up 9-3 with 17:30 to go in the half, Coach John Thompson III quickly called timeout.

“When they scored nine points, it felt like it was under a minute,” Thompson III said.

The Hoyas buckled down on defense after the timeout, taking away the Huskies’ transition game and forcing them into jump shots. The renewed effort allowed Georgetown to hold UConn scoreless for six minutes after the 16:36 mark.

It took the Hoyas almost that entire stretch to find their offense, but they eventually did, with senior center Henry Sims tying the game at 15 on a free throw with nine minutes to go in the half. That was just the beginning of an impressive offensive day for Sims, who had to contend with Drummond for most of the night. He finished with 13 points, although he also racked up seven turnovers.

“I remember Sims as a high school kid in Baltimore,” UConn head coach Jim Calhoun said. “He really has improved as a player. He’s a nice guy to throw in because he can do an awful lot with the ball.”

In fact, Sims combined with Thompson to score the final 17 points of the first half for the Hoyas, carrying Georgetown to a 31-21 halftime lead.

Despite Sims’ play down the stretch, Thompson was the star of the game for the Hoyas. After struggling offensively in his past two games, the junior forward responded with 18 points and nine rebounds, leading all players in both categories. The junior was effective working both inside and out on offense, and even managed two steals at the other end of the floor.

“I thought that this was one of the better games that Hollis has played, because he did so many things,” Thompson III said. “You can look at the stat sheet and he had 18 and nine, but he was key in that zone defense.”

Georgetown’s 2-3 zone defense was certainly key in holding UConn to 30 percent shooting, but many of the Huskies’ bricks and airballs were self-inflicted wounds. The two lynchpins of UConn’s backcourt, Jeremy Lamb and Shabazz Napier, were especially ineffective. Lamb managed 14 points, but the preseason All-American had to work for them, connecting on just four of his 18 attempts from the field, including 2-for-11 from beyond the arc.

“Jeremy Lamb is a terrific shooter,” Calhoun said. “He’s not shooting like it now, but under normal circumstances he’s going to make another four or five. A couple of them being threes, it might have been a different game.”

Napier, a fellow sophomore, was even worse. The guard, who averages 14.3 points per game, came off the bench for the first time all season as Calhoun shook up his starting lineup on the heels of three straight losses. The move didn’t pay any dividends—Napier was held to just one point in an 0-for-9 performance.

The Hoyas never fully solved Drummond, however. The big man led the Huskies with 18 points on 9-for-12 shooting and grabbed seven boards.

Georgetown maintained a double-digit lead for much of the second half, but UConn used a quick 4-0 run to cut the lead to six with 7:45 to go in the game. However, after a Hoya timeout, senior guard Jason Clark scored on a designed inbounds play to stop the bleeding.

After another basket by Clark, Sims effectively ended the game with a rim-rattling dunk that brought the crowd of 15,174 to its feet and prompted the student section to make its first “Hoya Saxa” chant of the game.

“Everybody was just like, ‘Whoa! On his head,’” Thompson said. “It was a great dunk.”

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