By Camille Powell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, November 12, 2006
Georgetown students, clad in their gray T-shirts with "100 Years of Hoya Hoops/The Tradition Continues" written across the back, filled both ends of Verizon Center yesterday afternoon, eager to see their eighth-ranked team finally take the court.
But they didn't watch a dominating or particularly sharp performance. Instead, a season of great expectations and excitement -- which coincides with the program's 100th anniversary season -- began with a 69-59 victory over Hartford in front of 9,654, the largest crowd for a season opener in Coach John Thompson III's tenure.
"A game like this tested us a lot," said junior guard Jonathan Wallace, one of three returning starters for Georgetown. "That should help us out, let us know that nothing will come easy. Hopefully it will set the tone for our season, let us know that we have to work harder than anybody else, because people are going to be gunning for us."
Georgetown's players didn't know much about Hartford, which came in with a first-year coach, 33-year old Dan Leibovitz. But they expected to see some variation of the Temple zone; Leibovitz, after all, spent the past 10 seasons as John Chaney's assistant. And indeed, the Hawks played only zone, making it difficult for the Hoyas to take advantage of their inside strength, 6-foot-9 forward Jeff Green and 7-2 center Roy Hibbert.
The Hawks collapsed around Green (17 points) and Hibbert (16 points on 5-for-11 shooting) whenever they got the ball. Green committed an uncharacteristic six turnovers, a couple of which came when he was stripped of the ball by a guard who was double-teaming him. In the second half, the Hoyas did a better job of working the ball inside and then passing it out to an open shooter on the perimeter.
Last season, Georgetown could rely on Ashanti Cook or Darrel Owens to make some of those shots. But both of those players graduated, which meant the open player yesterday, more often than not, turned out to be junior Tyler Crawford, who was making his first career start after spending the previous two seasons as a seldom-used reserve. Crawford attempted eight three-point shots -- two more than he took all of last season -- and made just one.
Overall, the Hoyas did not shoot well from the outside. Wallace (13 points) made 3 of 6 three-point attempts, but the rest of the Hoyas (including Crawford) were 3 of 17.
"He did jack it up there, huh?" Thompson said with a laugh as he glanced at Crawford's line in the box score. "Tyler Crawford can shoot. He missed today. We are a much better shooting team than we shot today. To a man."
The Hawks were a better shooting team yesterday (44.9 percent from the field). Every time Georgetown opened up a small lead, Hartford responded by hitting an open shot from the outside. When senior Bo Taylor (South Lakes) made a jump shot just inside the arc with 6 minutes 52 seconds left in the game, he brought the Hawks to within 54-53.
But two sophomores made key plays down the stretch that helped Georgetown pull away. Guard Jessie Sapp forced a turnover off a Hartford defensive rebound and converted a layup to push Georgetown's advantage to 56-53. Sapp (eight points) put back a miss by Crawford, and forward Marc Egerson (seven points) hit a three-pointer with 1:17 left to help put away the game.
"It's one game; it's game one," said Thompson, whose team has the school's highest preseason ranking in 11 years. "We have a lot we have to figure out. I've never insinuated or implied anything else. Now we can start to work through that. I don't think that our guys have any illusions of anything. I think our guys know exactly where we stand, that we have to improve. Number eight [ranking] or number 80 does not enter into our consciousness."
Notes: Junior forward Patrick Ewing Jr., with his father sitting courtside, made his Georgetown debut, entering the game with 7:46 left in the first half. He didn't attempt a shot. . . . Forward Vernon Macklin, a McDonald's All-American, was in uniform but did not play; earlier in the week, Thompson said that Macklin had "the freshmen beat-ups."