By Camille Powell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 18, 2006
Georgetown senior swingman Darrel Owens has worked hard over the past two years to make himself into something more than just a shooter. Last night against the University of South Florida, the smooth 6-foot-7 Owens did a lot of things to help the Hoyas escape with a 50-47 win: His shooting kept them in the game early and his quick hands and rebounding helped them seal the victory.
Owens finished with a game-high 20 points and added five rebounds and three steals to help the Hoyas (11-4, 3-2 Big East) avoid a costly stumble at home.
This game appeared to be a lull in the midst of a difficult run for the Hoyas, who lost at No. 12 West Virginia and No. 3 Connecticut last week and host top-ranked Duke on Saturday. USF (6-11, 0-4), the least accomplished of the five newcomers in the 16-team conference, came to MCI Center with a five-game losing streak that included close losses to West Virginia and Syracuse but also a blowout home defeat to St. John's.
"Every game in our conference is tough. The person that put this conference together, they knew what they were doing," Owens said. "Obviously a win is a win, and a win going into the number one team in the country is always good. I think we're going to take this win and use it as a little momentum to go into that game."
Owens came up big in the final, frantic 30 seconds of the game. Georgetown led by 48-47 and held the ball with a minute remaining in the game, but a turnover by Jonathan Wallace gave the Bulls possession and a chance to win. But first, Owens poked away the ball from Melvin Buckley and forced a jump ball with 17 seconds to play. USF retained possession, but had to inbound the ball again against the Hoyas' hands-on pressure.
Georgetown Coach John Thompson III instructed his team, which had two fouls to give, to foul the Bulls, but they didn't -- "We'll deal with that tomorrow," he said -- and Solomon Jones (11 points, 12 rebounds) took a 10-foot shot while being jostled by Brandon Bowman and Jeff Green. No foul was called (only 18 were called in the game), and Owens grabbed the air ball and held on tight.
"The last rebound, I was just going to hold it and let them foul me," said Owens, a career 71.7 percent free throw shooter. "I knew if I was going to the free throw line I was going to make the last two."
Indeed, Owens made both free throws for a three-point cushion with 2.6 seconds left. McHugh Mattis's desperation three-pointer at the buzzer hit the backboard and then the rim.
"We have a resilient group," said Thompson, whose team was 3-2 in games decided by three or fewer points last season. "Our guys are pretty confident coming down to the end that we're going to make the plays, that we're going to do the right things. D.J., him knocking that ball loose, him getting that rebound were more important because I feel like the last 10 possessions, we had good defensive possessions and they got the rebound. Coming up with that rebound was key."
This wasn't the prettiest offensive game. Twelve minutes in, the score was 10-10 and there had been more turnovers (11) than field goals (eight).
Owens was the only Hoya who shot the ball well; in the first half, he made all four shots he attempted (including two from beyond the arc) and scored the last five points to give Georgetown a 23-22 lead at the break. Eight minutes into the second half, he made back-to-back three-pointers to again give the Hoyas a one-point lead, 34-33. After a stretch in which Georgetown missed five straight free throws, he set up the highlight of the night.
Owens came up with a loose ball and passed it ahead to Bowman, who tossed it up to Green. In one fluid motion, Green caught the ball with one hand and slammed it through the rim, which brought the crowd of 5,071 to life for the first time. The basket gave Georgetown a 41-38 lead with 7:35 remaining.
Green, Bowman and center Roy Hibbert -- the Hoyas' top three scorers -- combined for just 11 points on 5-for-18 shooting (together, they normally average 33 points). Owens made 6 of 10 shots (including 4 of 8 from three-point range); the rest of the Hoyas shot 37.5 percent (14.3 percent from three-point range).
"We don't go into every game pointing any fingers, saying you've got to score tonight for us to win," Owens said. "It just so happened it was my night. I'm sure the next game we're going to spread the love and somebody else is going to be the guy to step up. It's just having confidence in each other that anyone can play well on any night."