By Camille Powell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, November 16, 2006
NASHVILLE, Nov. 15 -- This had been a problem for the Georgetown men's basketball team in the past, losing versatile junior forward Jeff Green to foul trouble for long stretches of a game and the Hoyas struggling as a result. And it did cause some difficulties when Green went to the bench with two fouls eight minutes into eighth-ranked Georgetown's game at Vanderbilt on Wednesday night, but the Hoyas turned to some new faces to help keep the Commodores at bay until he could return.
When Green finally did, he was dominant, and he was the catalyst behind Georgetown's 86-70 victory in front of 12,414 at Memorial Gymnasium. Green had 14 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists after halftime; he finished with 19 points, 8 rebounds and 6 assists.
"It felt like he was only out there for five minutes," Georgetown Coach John Thompson III said of Green, who played 23 minutes. "It's different when Jeff Green's on the floor. . . . It was a collective effort tonight, there's no doubt about that. But Jeff was very good in the second half."
Green's effectiveness was enabled in part by Vanderbilt Coach Kevin Stallings's decision to play almost exclusively man-to-man against the Hoyas (2-0). The 6-foot-8 Green has a hand in everything that Georgetown does offensively and is difficult to defend because of his varied skills. Hartford, Georgetown's opponent in its season opener on Saturday, chose to use a changing zone that collapsed around Green and 7-2 Roy Hibbert, and forced the Hoyas to shoot poorly from the perimeter.
Against the Commodores (0-1), the Hoyas were able to run their motion offense, and though Thompson wasn't happy with how they ran it, they were able to get good shots. Georgetown shot 52.5 percent.
"We thought they were going to play zone, but we finally got a chance to run our offense," Green said. "It was good to get a little taste of our offense."
Hibbert (18 points, 10 rebounds) had three dunks in the first nine minutes of the game, the second one coming off of a nice drive and pass from Green. After Jonathan Wallace (16 points) converted two free throws following a technical foul on Stallings, the Hoyas led 27-15 with 8 minutes 38 seconds until halftime.
But by that point, Green was on the sideline; he had picked up his second foul with 12:38 left in the half, and the Hoyas had to find a way to survive without him. Junior swingman Tyler Crawford, who started the season opener, was in a suit because he was battling the flu. Wallace was hampered by a cramp in his left calf.
The Hoyas spent the rest of the first half shuffling their newcomers -- junior Patrick Ewing Jr. and freshmen DaJuan Summers, Vernon Macklin and Jeremiah Rivers -- in and out of the lineup. At one point, sophomore guard Jessie Sapp (11 points) was on the floor with four big men: Marc Egerson, Summers, Ewing and Hibbert.
Georgetown struggled on offense, perhaps understandably, considering all the new faces and Green's absence. The Hoyas attempted just one shot during a 2 1/2 minute stretch late in the half, and the Commodores fought their way back. But even with a poor decision on its final possession, Georgetown held on to a four-point lead at halftime, 39-35.
"I want to be out there," Green said of having to sit for most of the first half. "But it gave me time to look back and see the things that the team did, so I could up my level when I came back in."
Green's return lifted the Hoyas. He rebounded a missed free throw from Hibbert, he scored directly off of an inbounds pass and then spun off his defender to score on a layup. Georgetown quickly opened up an eight-point lead, 45-37, two minutes into the second half. Green also set up several easy layups for his teammates with nice passes.
"I think this team grew up a lot today, playing a good team on the road, and facing the adversity that we did with certain players going out of the game early," Wallace said. "That helped us step up a little bit as a team. Guys were able to step in and see what it's going to take throughout the season."