TAMPA — They could've worn slippers instead of high-tops, approached the scorer's table on tiptoe, predicated their offense on backdoor cuts. Wouldn't have mattered.
The Chamberlain Chiefs weren't going to sneak up on Wharton this time around.
A year to the day after the Chiefs humbled the Wildcats by seven in the 2010-11 opener, Wharton vanquished 12 months of bitterness with a 72-47 romp Tuesday at home.
"It feels like my birthday," said 'Cats junior Sir Patrick Reynolds, a holdover who scored 19 on Tuesday. "… I needed that win today and that's what we came out and did."
The 'Cats scored 28 of the final 35 points and hit 12 of 16 free throws in that stretch. By the end, two Chiefs starters had fouled out and a third, go-to junior Reggie Hart, had been saddled with four fouls.
"They've got some guys on that team that remember last year and I've only got three guys," said Chamberlain coach Christopher Snyder, whose team had no preseason contest. "And putting those other guys in, they didn't know what was coming at them."
Brandishing a combination of frontcourt size and sleekness on the perimeter, Wharton (1-0) led by 10 early before a second-quarter defensive lapse. Behind Hart (23 points), the Chiefs (0-1) pounced with a 12-0 run to take a 25-21 lead.
Reynolds tied it at 27 with a 3-pointer, then opened the second half with another trey for a 31-27 lead. Soon thereafter, the 'Cats had a 9-0 third-quarter run capped by junior point guard C.J. McGill's layup and baseline jumper.
That made it 42-31, and Wharton's lead never fellow below four from there. McGill, a freshman starter who missed all of last season with a torn ACL, scored 10 of his game-high 24 in the final quarter.
"I had a bitter taste in my mouth for a year," Wharton coach Tommy Tonelli said. "To say we weren't motivated after getting beat last year wouldn't be being honest with you. But I think any team, any group that's competitive, they have that in them."