By Camille Powell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 6, 2006
This wasn't the first time that Georgetown Coach John Thompson III has had to yell at his basketball team, and it certainly won't be the last. But Thompson's tirade during halftime of the Hoyas' Big East Conference opener against Providence last night was apparently just what his team needed.
The Hoyas, listless and sloppy in the first half, turned into an emotional and aggressive group in the second and came away with a 72-62 victory, their sixth straight, in front of 6,985 at the MCI Center.
Halftime was "not fun at all. He pretty much got on us, said we got to pick up the intensity," senior forward Brandon Bowman said. "This definitely hit home. It's Big East play. You don't want to start off Big East 0-1. It definitely was a confidence booster and what he said, we really did take heed to it."
Bowman and fellow senior Ashanti Cook, in particular, took heed. Bowman had his first double-double of the season with 19 points and 12 rebounds, and the majority of them (12 points and eight rebounds) came in the second half. Cook scored nine of his 15 points in a four-minute span at the start of the second half that gave Georgetown (9-2) the lead for good.
The Hoyas had 28 rebounds (10 offensive) and scored 48 points in the second half, and they out-rebounded the Friars 47-26 overall. Center Roy Hibbert (16 points and 10 rebounds) and forward Jeff Green (two points) were especially active on the boards in the second half. Green finished without a field goal for the first time this season, but had six rebounds, often at key times, four assists and three steals.
The Hoyas' next three games are on the road, starting Sunday at St. John's (7-5, 0-1). They don't return to MCI Center until Jan. 17, when they host conference newcomer South Florida. Providence, which is down to eight scholarship players, fell to 7-5.
Georgetown was playing its first game in eight days -- and its first game in MCI Center in 15 -- but Cook dismissed the suggestion that the layoff affected the team.
"We've been going pretty hard in practice," said Cook, who also had three assists and two steals. "Basically, coach told us to carry our intensity that we had in practice over to the game."
But the Hoyas -- who looked so sharp in winning the Sun Bowl Tournament in El Paso last week -- seemed lifeless at the start. They were occasionally indifferent on defense -- Providence sophomore Randall Hanke (17 points, seven blocks) had three wide-open dunks off of fast breaks -- and sloppy on offense.
Georgetown committed 15 turnovers (four more than its season average) in the first 20 minutes, and only a handful could be attributed to the Friars' defense. The rest -- like Darrel Owens just dropping the ball on the wing or Bowman not catching a pass -- were simply Hoya mistakes. Eight of those turnovers came during an eight-minute stretch in which the Friars built a 23-14 lead.
"You tell them at halftime, you just have to start playing harder. Start playing with a lot more energy," said Thompson, whose team was fortunate to only be trailing 30-24 at halftime. "I think that was the difference. Providence came out and played well, but I don't think I've seen a half where we've had balls hit the guys in the hands and they just dropped them. If I get myself worked up, I'll give my halftime speech again."
Thompson was especially pointed in his halftime comments to Cook, one of the Hoyas' captains. Cook did not play well in the first half, missing all three shots he attempted and committing two turnovers. But he responded immediately, poking the ball away from Donnie McGrath (17 points) and then drawing a foul on the Friar on Providence's first possession after the break.
Sophomore Jonathan Wallace (season-high 15 points) made a three-pointer from the left side to bring the Hoyas to within 30-27, and then Cook went on his run. He made a soft pull-up jumper, a three-pointer at the top of the key, a nice lay-up off of a steal, and then a tough offensive rebound and put-back. At that point, Georgetown led 36-30 with 14 minutes 34 seconds to play.
The Hoyas extended their lead to 10 following a ferocious three-point play from Hibbert. The 7-foot-2 sophomore quickly spun around 6-10 Herbert Hill and threw down a vicious one-handed dunk that shook the basket. Said Bowman, "I was in awe."
Note: Reserve forward Sead Dizdarevic wore a clear plastic mask to protect a cracked nose and cheekbone. He was injured in practice when Hibbert fell on him as they were diving for a loose ball.