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Hoyas Take Down Memphis For Second Time This Season, 70-59

Georgetown used a stifling defense and some momentum-shifting scoring runs to beat Memphis for the second time this season. In a rare nonconference rematch in front of a raucous crowd of a little over 12,000 Verizon Center fans, the Hoyas’ 70-59 win puts them at eight straight wins to start conference play.

Neither team thought they would see each other twice this season, but when the Hoyas (10-1) matched up with Memphis (6-5) in Maui, they ran each other into overtime and Georgetown came out with the 91-88 win off a three by Jason Clark with 51 seconds left in the game to give the Hoyas the lead. Heading into a game after facing the opponent just weeks before, coach John Thompson III knew his team would have to minimize the Tigers’ fast break points and their ability to score in transition.

“I feel like a large percentage of their points were when we had unforced turnovers, turnovers that were because of mistakes we made, which quickly led to transition baskets for them. That is what they do. That is one of their strengths,” he said. “When we stopped their transition, when we didn’t have careless turnovers, I thought our defense was very good for large, large stretches of tonight’s game.”

Memphis ended the game with 19 points off turnovers, but only eight fast-break points. Even though Thompson III thought his team “may have made too many extra passes,” their heightened communication in the second half lead to better defense and stops to close out the win.

“In the first half, we were getting lost and guys were open and all of the sudden, two guys were running to one person and another person’s wide open over here,” Thompson III said. “These guys did a much better job of just communicating with each other on a lot of their circular action so that we were always in front of them, which allowed us to get stops, which allowed us to score at the other end.”

The Hoyas kept it steady the first half, coming out with two threes by Markel Starks to start the game and maintaining the lead from there while forcing 10 Memphis turnovers, three on the Tigers’ first four possessions. Georgetown left some holes in the defense for open Tigers to take some shots, but the Hoyas would never relinquish their lead.

With 1:44 left in the first half, Memphis coach Josh Pastner stepped outside the coaches’ box and appeared to interfere with play on the court, which officials ultimately ruled was not an infraction. However, it was all the momentum Georgetown needed as a furious crowd cheered on a Henry Sims (12 points, nine rebounds) layup, a tip-in by Clark (18 points, five rebounds) and a defensive rebound by Hollis Thompson (17 points, nine rebounds) who fed it to Sims for the dunk with 0.6 seconds left, giving the Hoyas a 6-0 run to close out the half with a seven-point lead.

The momentum continued into the second half, where the Hoyas quickly jumped out to a 20-point lead but two incidences of three consecutive turnovers gave the Tigers the points they needed to catch up. It wouldn’t be enough.

One key to winning was the Hoyas’ ability to hold down Memphis leading scorer Will Barton. Though Barton still managed a double-double — 12 points, 11 rebounds — Clark felt the Hoyas frustrated him.

“He wasn’t attacking as much as he usually does,” Clark said. “I think our defensive pressure, our help frustrated him a lot. He couldn’t get to the seams that he usually gets to.”

Thompson III said Barton is “difficult to guard because he plays so hard. He puts so much pressure on you in that he does every part of the game.” But Thompson agreed with Coach on the team effort it took it hold Barton down.

“It’s definitely a team effort,” Thompson said. “We saw on the tape he likes to drive middle so we tried to cut those drives off. And when he did get in the middle, my teammates kind of sunk in and helped me out.”

The Hoyas enter conference play Dec. 28 when they face No. 4-ranked Louisville before returning home New Year’s Eve to play Providence at 2 p.m. at Verizon Center.

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