By Camille Powell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 9, 2006
NEW YORK, March 8 -- Georgetown senior forward Brandon Bowman claims he didn't get frustrated during his recent five-game slump -- not when he missed open layups, not when he committed turnover after turnover, not when he missed grabbing rebounds. He felt confident he would step up when his team needed him.
The Hoyas needed him in the first round of the Big East tournament Wednesday afternoon, and Bowman responded by putting together his best all-around performance of the season -- and one of the best in his career -- to help lead 23rd-ranked Georgetown to a 67-63 win over Notre Dame at Madison Square Garden. The four-year starter scored a season-high 25 points and added seven rebounds and four assists as the Hoyas reached the 20-win mark for the first time since the 2000-01 season.
"It feels great, but it's just one game," said Bowman, who scored a total of 28 points in his five previous games. "We're trying to do a lot of winning here, and it feels good. It's momentum going to the next game. Most importantly, we have to stay on the right track. It's not about good games, excellent games, as long as we win."
Georgetown (20-8), the tournament's fifth seed, will play fourth-seeded Marquette (20-9) in the quarterfinals at 2:30 Thursday. The Golden Eagles won the teams' only meeting this season, 57-51, on Feb. 16.
Bowman's value against the Irish (15-13) went beyond just points. He grabbed offensive rebounds (six), he took care of the ball (one turnover), he made smart decisions and he even was vocal on defense. Bowman flashed into the middle of the Irish zone and either looked for his shot or kicked the ball out. Sophomore forward Jeff Green (13 points, nine rebounds), normally the point man in Georgetown's offense, played only seven minutes in the second half, mainly because the Hoyas were so effective with Bowman on the floor in that position.
"He was terrific. I'm glad that he showed up today," Georgetown Coach John Thompson III said of Bowman. "He was a basketball player. He was involved in the game; he wasn't just trying to score points. It's something he can do. We'll need it tomorrow."
Bowman hit several timely shots in the second half. He made a three-pointer as the shot clock was winding down (and fell to the floor in the process) to give the Hoyas a 43-41 lead with 13 minutes to play. With less than four minutes remaining, Bowman scored four straight points off offensive rebounds to give Georgetown a 62-57 cushion.
His biggest shot came with 22 seconds left; the Hoyas held the ball against the Notre Dame zone, and then Bowman drove right at Torin Francis and tossed a left-handed hook shot over the 6-foot-11 forward and off the backboard to put Georgetown up 66-63.
"The shot that Bowman made was a tough shot," said Notre Dame Coach Mike Brey, whose team lost its ninth game by five points or fewer. "I mean, Torin rode him kind of into the cheerleaders, and he hit a lefty runner. I mean, that's just a talented play."
Notre Dame jumped out to an 11-0 lead. Georgetown missed its first 12 shots and didn't record its first basket until nearly six and a half minutes had elapsed. But the Hoyas didn't get flustered -- even though their struggles came on the heels of their worst loss of the season (63-56 at South Florida) -- and they methodically worked their way back into the game, tying the score shortly before halftime.
"We were missing shots that we normally make," said senior guard Ashanti Cook, who had 14 points and four assists. "I don't think the guys had the mentality that [the game] was over. I think we were like, 'We've got to fight through it, try something different. Our jump shots aren't falling, so let's try to get it into the middle of the paint.' For the most part, I think our guys stayed poised and focused."
Bowman is the Hoyas' most experienced player -- Wednesday's game was the 122nd consecutive start of his career, the fourth-longest active streak in the country -- but he did not play well during Georgetown's final five regular season games, three of them losses. Not only was he not scoring, he wasn't doing much else: only 14 total rebounds in the five games, and 10 assists against 15 turnovers.
One of his worst moments of the season came in the Hoyas' 85-82 double-overtime win at Notre Dame in late January, when he fouled Colin Falls (21 points on Wednesday) as he made a three-pointer, and the four-point play sent the game into overtime. That moment, along with the recent difficulties, seemed in the distant past Wednesday afternoon.
"It is a sense of urgency," Bowman said. "Me being a senior, knowing that each game could be your last, I think you play with more intensity. I think I realize that, and other guys realize that too. It's now or never."