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Hoyas Pounce Early To Swat Away Bison

Georgetown 79, Howard 56

By Camille Powell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, December 31, 2004; Page D06

The Georgetown men's basketball team walked off the court following its 79-56 victory over Howard in front of 7,671 at MCI Center last night, the first part of its education complete. Soon the real test will begin.

The Hoyas finished their nonconference slate with an 8-3 record, a respectable showing for a team with a new coach and three freshmen among its top six point producers. But the Hoyas' schedule grows considerably tougher over the next week, as they begin Big East play by traveling to No. 10 Pittsburgh on Wednesday and then hosting No. 11 Connecticut, the defending national champion, the following Saturday.

Howard's Louis Ford is surrounded by Georgetown defenders as he tries to make a move to the basket. (John McDonnell - The Washington Post)

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"That's been in my head from the beginning, from Oct. 15th," Coach John Thompson III said of using each game to prepare for the Big East schedule. "You try to prepare your team, you try to progress, you try to get better. The season starts next week. . . . We have gotten better since the Temple game [an 18-point loss in the season opener]. But we have to keep getting better. We can't flat line, we can't just coast along."

Georgetown has dominated its crosstown rival, winning the previous five meetings between the schools by an average of 29.8 points. Still, there should have been no reason for the Hoyas to look past Howard (4-6), especially considering that they needed overtime to beat Norfolk State, also of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, on Tuesday night.

The Hoyas got off to a slow start, but had the game well in hand by halftime. Georgetown shot a season-high 59.6 percent from the field and 53 percent from beyond the arc. It scored 21 of its 28 baskets off assists.

All 14 Hoyas played, and 11 scored, led by junior Brandon Bowman's 18 points. Freshman center Roy Hibbert added 12 points, junior guard Ashanti Cook had 11, and freshman guard Tyler Crawford came off the bench to score seven before fouling out. Sophomore guard Ray Reed didn't score, but he had six assists and just one turnover. Georgetown's bench erupted in cheers when sophomore walk-on Kenny Izzo made a free throw in the final minute of the game, the first point of his college career.

Reserve guard Will Gant led the Bison with 18 points, all in the second half. Howard sophomore forward Cliffone Ault averaged 25 points in his previous four games, but the Hoyas held him to 11 points on 4-of-14 shooting.

"We pointed him out in practice, what he likes to do, trying to stop what he's good at," Bowman said of Ault. "He scores from all angles of the court, and we wanted to contain that, keep it to a minimum."

Howard, which entered the game shooting 38 percent on the season, made only 15 percent of its first-half shots, and trailed 33-16 at the break. The Hoyas actually blocked four of the Bison's first six shots; somewhat surprisingly, the 7-foot-2 Hibbert -- who was a good six inches taller than any Howard starter -- was responsible for only one of those blocks (he finished with three). By halftime, the Bison had more shots swatted away (eight) than fall through the hoop (five).

"We never could do anything on the offensive end [in the first half]; a lot of it was they didn't give us real good looks," Howard Coach Frankie Allen said. "Early in the game, I thought we had opportunities when we did execute, but we didn't score. We'd run a play and have a good look, but always look over our shoulder at Hibbert or [6-8 freshman Jeff] Green or somebody like that, and I think that took us out of the flow."

Georgetown didn't start off particularly well, either. The Hoyas led 8-6 about 8 1/2 minutes into the game, and at that point, they had missed 7 of 9 shots, committed five turnovers, and been whistled for three offensive fouls. But Georgetown ended the first half well, making six of its final seven shots, and holding Howard without a point for the final 2 minutes 43 seconds.

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