By Camille Powell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 22, 2005
HARRISONBURG, Va., Nov. 21 -- This kind of game was exactly what Coach John Thompson III was looking for when he decided to bring the Georgetown men's basketball team to James Madison University for the first time. The Hoyas had to deal with a feisty opponent in a hostile environment, and they were able to pull out a 73-66 victory Monday night.
"I knew it would be a tough game looking at their personnel, and playing down here," said Thompson, whose team will finally play at home on Saturday when it hosts Vanderbilt at MCI Center. "This type of environment, this type of situation, this is why you schedule the game, and you hope you come away with the win. It will help prepare us for later on."
The Dukes (0-1) turned out to be a tougher opponent than they appeared to be from afar; James Madison finished 6-22 last season and was picked to finish ninth in the Colonial Athletic Association preseason coaches' poll. But the Dukes, who relied heavily on five freshmen and a sophomore, seemed to feed off of a raucous opening night crowd of 5,566 inside JMU Convocation Center. The noise inside the arena was deafening, thanks to a brass band stationed behind one basket and dozens of students clad in purple "Beat the Hoyas" T-shirts behind the other.
It was the kind of atmosphere that Georgetown will face on the road in conference play, and the young Hoyas -- three sophomores and a freshman (National Christian All-Met Jessie Sapp) played significant minutes -- handled it well.
"This is a learning experience for our underclassmen," said fifth-year senior swingman Darrel Owens, who had 10 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists. "We're not even in conference play, and already we've had two games in tough places to play. We had to dig down deep against them."
Sophomore forward Jeff Green, who was Georgetown's most reliable player last season, had one of the worst statistical games of his career. Shots that he normally would make rolled out, and he finished with four points on 2-of-10 shooting.
Last season, that kind of performance from Green, the Big East co-rookie of the year, would have severely hampered Georgetown. This year, the Hoyas are developing enough weapons to compensate. Four players reached double figures in scoring for the Hoyas, who shot 47.1 percent.
"We have the kind of team this year where I think that different pieces and people are going to be in position to step up," Thompson said. "In the second half today it was [Owens], and Roy [Hibbert] got us going in the beginning."
Hibbert, the 7-foot-2 sophomore center, established a career high in points for the second straight game; he scored 23 points on 7-of-8 shooting. He made all nine free throws he attempted (the Hoyas were 19 for 22) and grabbed six rebounds.
Georgetown (2-0) made an effort to work the ball inside to Hibbert, who was initially guarded by the 6-7 David Cooper, early in the game, and he scored on the Hoyas' first five possessions. During that three-minute span, Brandon Bowman was the only other Hoya to attempt a shot -- and his errant three-pointer was rebounded and turned into an old-fashioned three-point play by Hibbert.
Hibbert, who was named the Big East player of the week following his 20-point, seven-rebound effort in Georgetown's win at Navy on Friday, scored the Hoyas' first 15 points.
"You have no choice" but to look for Hibbert, said sophomore guard Jonathan Wallace, who had 12 points and two assists. "First thing down the court, you look for him."
And by relying so much on Hibbert early, the rest of the offense opened up for the Hoyas. Georgetown looked much smoother on offense than it did in its season opener on Friday. Every time the Dukes made a run, the Hoyas were able to stop it with a key play, whether it was Sapp making two free throws after the Dukes cut Georgetown's lead to just three points at 54-51 with 10 minutes left in the game, or Owens hitting back-to-back three-pointers with under four minutes left in the game, or Wallace forcing a turnover.
"Our team is mixed of different parts and different objects," Owens said. "It's different guys every game. Our whole team got it done."