Georgetown Plants A Win in the Garden

By Camille Powell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, January 9, 2006

NEW YORK, Jan. 8 -- As a fifth-year senior on the Georgetown men's basketball team, Darrel Owens has seen his share of losses to St. John's inside Madison Square Garden. He made sure that he wouldn't have to endure another one on Sunday night, scoring a season-high 24 points in Georgetown's 79-65 victory over the Red Storm.

The win was the Hoyas' first against St. John's at the Garden since the 1996-97 season, a streak of six games.

"We keep hearing about that," said Owens, who made 6 of 8 three-point attempts. "You can't dwell on the past. We know our track record here, but we also know we had a great chance. We played well in the Big East tournament here, so we didn't want to think about our past games with St. John's. We knew that if we came in and played hard and got the hustle plays, we could pull it out."

The current players had only known disappointment and frustration against the Red Storm in the Garden, such as two years ago, when the Hoyas lost to a scandal-plagued and depleted St. John's team that lost every other conference game, or last year, when they were blown out in the first half of a game they needed to win if they wanted to keep their NCAA tournament hopes alive.

The Hoyas (10-2, 2-0) got essentially the same kind of shots they did in last year's 76-67 loss to St. John's in New York. The difference on Sunday was that their shots went into the basket -- instead of shooting 19 percent from beyond the three-point arc, the Hoyas made 57.1 percent (12 of 21). And they got a timely win, with trips to No. 24 West Virginia (10-3, 2-0), which upset third-ranked Villanova on Sunday, and to No. 2 Connecticut (12-1, 0-1) looming in the week ahead.

"The Big East is tough," Owens said. "As soon as we get on the bus, we have to put this game in the past."

St. John's (7-6, 0-2) was missing its leading scorer, junior guard Daryll Hill, for the fourth straight game because of a knee injury. That was a blessing for the Hoyas, because the super-quick scorer -- whose nickname is "Showtime" -- scored more than 20 points in each of his previous three games against Georgetown.

Coach John Thompson III opted to use a smaller lineup for most of the game against the Red Storm. Roy Hibbert, Georgetown's 7-foot-2 sophomore, played a season-low eight minutes, mainly because he struggled at the defensive end against St. John's quicker post players, Lamont Hamilton (10 points) and Aaron Spears (14 points). Instead, the Hoyas turned to 6-9 senior Amadou Kilkenny-Diaw.

Kilkenny-Diaw played a career-high 16 minutes and helped anchor Georgetown's defense during the decisive run of the game. Hamilton scored on an alley-oop over the Hoyas' zone to bring the Red Storm within 55-54 with 11 minutes 42 seconds left. But over the next seven minutes, Georgetown forced six turnovers and outscored St. John's 16-0. Hibbert and forward Brandon Bowman (16 points), Georgetown's top two scorers, were on the bench during that stretch.

"We were going through a stretch there where we couldn't stop them and Amadou is a very good post defender. We put him in there and our defense got better," Thompson said. "Throughout the game we were getting points, but we put Amadou in there and our defense got better, rebounds started bouncing our way. It's easy to talk about how Darrel shot the ball, but Amadou's defense was key."

Owens has the smoothest shooting stroke on the team, but he can be somewhat streaky. He made all five three-pointers he attempted against Texas-El Paso in the final of the Sun Bowl tournament on Dec. 28, but missed all four long-range attempts against Providence on Wednesday night.

St. John's led 26-24 with 4:15 left in the first half, but the Hoyas made four straight three-pointers -- two each from Owens and Bowman -- over the next 2 1/2 minutes to regain the advantage, 36-30. Two of Owens's three-pointers in the second half came immediately following big plays by the Red Storm -- a steal and dunk from Spears and a drive from Eugene Lawrence that tied the score at 52.

"It felt like the South Carolina game, when I couldn't miss," said Owens, referring to the Hoyas' National Invitation Tournament quarterfinal loss last season, when he made 7 of 12 three-pointers and scored a career-high 26 points. "My teammates came out and gave me confidence at halftime to keep shooting, and I fed off that. That's all the confidence I need."

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