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Georgetown beats No. 13 UCLA in Muhammad's debut

The SportsXchange

NEW YORK -- The Georgetown Hoyas had opened the second half with an impressive spurt, scoring 12 points before No. 13 UCLA could score.

The strong start after the break, coupled with the Hoyas' impressive surge to open the game, helped Georgetown top the Bruins 78-70 Monday night and spoil the college debut of UCLA freshman Shabazz Muhammad.

So, when Georgetown coach John Thompson III was asked whether he had said anything at halftime to inspire the impressive run, he offered a deadpan answer.

"Absolutely," Thompson said, to laughter, after the Hoyas' semifinal win in the Progressive Legends Classic at the Barclays Center. After the laughter subsided, Thompson said his halftime speeches usually are most effective when his players can beat him to the punch with their own suggestions.

This time, after UCLA had closed within 31-29 at halftime, Thompson said his players preached that they had to "get stops" and rebounds and "had to keep moving and keep cutting, get them chasing us," Thompson said.

Especially hard to catch was Georgetown guard Markel Starks, who scored a career-high 23 points and led several key surges. Otto Porter returned to the lineup to score 18 points and grab 11 rebounds.

Georgetown will play No. 1 Indiana in the championship game Tuesday night while UCLA will play Georgia in the consolation game.

The pre-game buzz focused on Muhammad, the freshman widely regarded as the nation's top recruit who was reinstated by the NCAA on Friday after being declared ineligible for a rules violation.

Muhammad was impressive, coming off the bench to score 15 points, second on the Bruins to fellow freshman Jordan Adams, who scored 22. He exceeded coach Ben Howland's expectations after a three-game suspension delayed his debut and a pair of injuries hampered his preparation.

But the freshman out of Nevada was not satisfied with his performance or the result.

"It was really exciting to get down the court for the first time, even though I thought we didn't play (as) well (as) we can possibly play as a team," Muhammad said. "But just finally getting the jitters out, first time ... hopefully I can do better. I think I can get a lot better. I don't think I played really well tonight...."

Just as the Bruins finally welcomed Muhammad, they lost forward David Wear to a back injury about midway through the second half. Wear fell hard to the ground after getting shoved by Greg Whittington while vying for a rebound. Howland said he was not sure whether Wear could play Tuesday night.

Porter was coming back from his own injury, having left the first game early and missed the second due to a concussion. But he impressed Thompson in his return.

"Otto's first full game, if you look at the stat sheet, which I don't normally focus on, was a full game ..." Thompson said. "And there's a whole lot of other stuff that didn't show up on this piece of paper. We're a better team with him on the court, so it's good to have him back out there."

After UCLA (3-1) responded to previous surges from Georgetown, the Hoyas put the Bruins away for good with just over six minutes left.

Starks, who entered the game averaging six points per game, scored five points in yet another dominant Hoyas' run, as they went on a 12-4 spurt to take a 66-54 lead with 6:22 remaining. UCLA did not get closer than seven after that.

"I think Starks had a great game tonight," Howland said. "He had 23, I think, and that's as many points as he's scored in the last six games of last season, combined, so he's made a big jump."

The Hoyas (3-0) started even stronger in the second half than they had in their 10-2 spurt to start the game. They came out of the break with a 12-0 run to take a 43-29 lead with 17:44 left.

Whittington's two 3-pointers keyed the charge, while Starks scored on a layup, then fed Mikael Hopkins for a dunk as Georgetown threatened to run away with the game.

But, as they had in the first half, the Bruins responded, going on a 15-5 run to close within 48-44 when Adams hit a jumper with 13:10 remaining to score his seventh point during the spurt.

Muhammad did not start, but hit the first shot of his collegiate career shortly after he entered with 14:12 left in the first half. He would hit several key shots while trying to keep the Bruins in the game.

"I thought he did a good job," Howland said of Muhammad, who played 25 minutes. "I didn't plan to play him as many minutes as I did."

After an appeal by UCLA, Muhammad was reinstated by the NCAA on Friday, ordered to repay approximately $1,600 in "impermissible benefits," the NCAA said. He had been declared ineligible for receiving travel expenses and lodging during unofficial recruiting trips.

NOTES: Howland said he could not use forward Tony Parker to sub for Wear because he entered the night with his own back injury, but hoped Parker could play Tuesday. ... Adams entered the game having scored at least 20 points in the Bruins' first three games, the first freshman at UCLA to do so. He made it four straight Monday night.
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