WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP)—Coach John Thompson III preaches patience at Georgetown. Jessie Sapp is a believer.
The sophomore guard scored a career-high 20 points to break a shooting slump and lead the second-seeded Hoyas to an 80-55 rout over 15th-seeded Belmont in the first round of the East Regional on Thursday.
Sapp had been 12-for-42 in his previous six games and had failed to reach double figures.
“Basically, I was rushing a lot of shots,” Sapp said. “We kind of slowed it down. Coach and the other coaches told me, ‘Just take your time on your shot.’ … I was making them.”
Patience has been the buzzword of Thompson’s attempt to bring another championship to Georgetown. Once his Princeton-style offense finally began chewing up clock and churning out points, the outmanned Bruins couldn’t catch up.
“At times we rushed a few things, but as the course of the game went on, we kind of settled down, and that’s what we do best,” guard Jonathan Wallace said.
Jeff Green added 15 points and Sapp made a career-high four 3-pointers for the Hoyas (27-6), who advanced to the second round for the second straight year. They will renew a one-time Big East rivalry Saturday when they face seventh-seeded Boston College.
“They went to the ACC, and I thought I’d only have to see them on television,” Thompson said.
Roy Hibbert added 10 points and 13 rebounds for Georgetown, which won its 16th in 17 games by snapping Belmont’s seven-game winning streak and dealing the Bruins their second straight lopsided loss in the tournament.
“They’re so tough … to stop them inside,” Belmont guard Justin Hare said. “When they’re hitting outside shots, it makes it even harder. I don’t think most teams in the nation could beat them when their inside-out game was as hot as it was in the first half.”
A quarter-century ago, Thompson’s father led the physical, intimidating Hoyas to the Final Four. Now, his son’s team is showing flashes of similar success—even if the teams’ styles are nothing alike.
John Thompson III led Georgetown to its highest seed since Allen Iverson and the coach’s father led the Hoyas to a No. 2 seed in 1996. The Hoyas improved to 17-1 in their last 18 first-round games.
With a lineup that included Green—the Big East’s player of the year—and the 7-foot-2 Hibbert, the Hoyas showed plenty of reasons why they deserve consideration as a trendy pick to advance from a difficult East bracket that includes powers North Carolina and Texas and reach their first Final Four in 22 years.
Belmont coach Rick Byrd wanted Georgetown’s shots to come from Sapp—who entered shooting 28 percent from 3-point range—but that plan backfired when the sophomore guard matched his previous career high from beyond the arc by halftime.
“I guess that shows you that at least we had a game plan,” Byrd said. “It might not have been a good one, but we felt that they’re obviously a better team than we are, and would win the game more often … To (Sapp’s) credit, he didn’t look like a 28 percent 3-point shooter to me.”
Sapp hit three 3s in a 4-minute span to give the Hoyas more than enough breathing room. Belmont never got closer than 11 in the second half, and the Hoyas were content to spend the final 20 minutes patiently working the clock while running the younger Thompson’s Princeton-style offense.
Andrew Preston had 14 points and Justin Hare added 10 for Belmont (23-10), which looked early on like it might threaten to pull off the tournament’s first big upset.
The Bruins raced out to an early 11-4 lead behind Matthew Dotson’s 3 off the glass and surprisingly strong inside play against Hibbert.
That all changed when Green and the rest of Georgetown’s supporting cast got rolling.
“We’ve been through that before, we’ve played in crazy environments before, so we weren’t going to be” antsy, Sapp said. “We just were calm about it, ran our stuff, played better defense and we went up.”
The Hoyas reeled off 11 straight points as part of a 20-4 run, holding the Bruins without a field goal for 8 minutes and taking the lead for good when Green’s layup made it 13-11 with 11:23 until halftime.
It was a second straight quick exit from the tournament for Belmont, which also was a No. 15 seed last year in its first-ever appearance in the field of 65 but was routed 78-44 by UCLA on its way to the national title game.
In both games the heavy underdogs from Nashville, Tenn., jumped out to a surprising, brief early lead before wilting.
“We were up similarly last year on UCLA,” Byrd said, “and I still remember the final score.”