By Camille Powell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, February 6, 2006
There is rarely a game when Georgetown Coach John Thompson III isn't asked afterward to comment on the play of sophomore forward Jeff Green. Yesterday afternoon, Thompson had the chance to expound on the defense and scoring ability of Green, who matched a career high with 22 points in the 17th-ranked Hoyas' 61-58 victory over No. 9 Pittsburgh in front of 13,284 at MCI Center.
After blowing out their previous two opponents, the Hoyas put together their biggest comeback of the season, rallying from a 15-point first-half deficit. Then, in the game's final 39 seconds, they almost frittered away a 10-point lead but held on when Ronald Ramon missed a wide-open three-pointer at the buzzer.
As a result, Georgetown (16-4, 7-2 Big East) gained sole possession of fourth place in the league and picked up its second victory over a top 10 team in 15 days. The last season in which the Hoyas beat two top 10 teams was 1995-96.
Green made 9 of 14 shots, including a career-best 4 of 7 three-point attempts. His quickness in Georgetown's matchup zone helped the Hoyas hold Aaron Gray, Pittsburgh's 7-foot junior, scoreless in the second half. On offense, Thompson pulled Green away from the basket and used him as a point-forward against the Panthers (17-3, 6-3 Big East). During the Hoyas' decisive 14-4 run late in the game, Green twice drove by Gray and scored on easy layups.
"We thought that if we pulled Jeff away, he'd have a chance to go around him a little bit," said Thompson, whose team has won six straight. "He made some tough lay-ups, which he does."
"I just used my quickness against him," said Green, a 6-foot-9 former All-Met from Northwestern High. "I knew when I came here, me playing the 4 [power forward] and the 5 [center], there was going to be guys bigger than me, so I really had to use my quickness against them and sometimes use my power. I just had to use that in this game a lot."
Gray was dominant in the first half, scoring 15 points on an array of soft jumpers and put-backs. The score was tied at 18 with 9 minutes 12 seconds left until halftime, but the Panthers scored 15 consecutive points to open a 33-18 lead. During that stretch, the Hoyas settled for three-point attempts instead of getting the ball inside, and they missed six consecutive shots from beyond the arc.
Thompson wanted the Hoyas to attempt to penetrate, and late in the half, they made a conscious effort to attack the basket. Senior Brandon Bowman drove the lane and passed the ball out to Green in the left corner, and Green made the three-pointer to end Georgetown's seven-minute scoring drought. Bowman scored the Hoyas' next five points off of two drives, and then senior Ashanti Cook made a tough pull-up just inside the arc to bring Georgetown to within 35-28 at the break.
"I think that's the key point where we showed the poise, where they could've run away from it," Thompson said. "We hung in there."
Bowman and Green helped the Hoyas pull away from the Panthers in the second half. Bowman's fast-break layup tied the score at 45, and he did plenty of other things besides score. He hustled over to block Levance Field's three-point attempt; he ran down his own missed shot and followed it up by making a three-pointer; he swiped the ball from John DeGroat.
Bowman scored 10 of his 15 points in the second half, and added four rebounds, four assists, two steals and two blocks. His two free throws with 39 seconds left gave the Hoyas a 10-point lead, and then Georgetown withstood a furious rally from the Panthers.
"The offensive stuff, that's Brandon," Thompson said. "He did a lot of other things that he doesn't always do. He's getting better. He's starting to appreciate other parts of the game, and that's a very good thing for us and a very good thing for him."
Green, however, has always appreciated the other parts of the game. Earlier in the season, when he was finishing games with single-digit point totals, Thompson was repeatedly asked why Green was struggling; Thompson always responded by saying that Green's value was far more than just scoring. Green is still giving the Hoyas all of the other things -- the rebounds, the assists, the presence of mind -- but now his scoring has picked up. Over the past five games, Green is averaging 17.4 points and has 22 assists and 10 turnovers.
"Jeff Green did not struggle earlier; he was not scoring points," Thompson said. "People have decided Jeff should score X points, and when Jeff doesn't score X points, 'Oh he had a bad game.' There have been very few of any games where I think that Jeff Green had a bad game. . . . He just does a very good job of knowing what to do and how to help us win."