Big Brother Comes Out Ahead
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
John Thompson III hugged the opposing head coach shortly before his 18th-ranked Georgetown men's basketball team tipped off against Ball State last night, and then tried his best to forget that it was his younger brother, Ronny, who was directing the visiting Cardinals.
It was a bittersweet feeling as his Hoyas dominated Ball State in a 69-54 victory in front of 6,942 at Verizon Center. Georgetown shot 52.1 percent and had 20 assists on 25 field goals. Junior Jeff Green scored 14 points and had six rebounds and four assists. Sophomore Jessie Sapp, who has improved with every game, had a career-high eight assists to go along with six points.
This was the first meeting between Georgetown (4-1) and Ball State (2-4), and only the second time that John III and Ronny had been on opposing benches (the previous meeting came as assistant coaches in the 1999 National Invitation Tournament, when Princeton beat Georgetown).
Their Hall of Fame father, John Thompson Jr., sat at the end of press row and conducted interviews before the game and at halftime. Their mother, Gwen Thompson, was in her usual seat in the stands, opposite the Georgetown bench. She, and several other family members, wore specially made T-shirts, with "All's fair in basketball and brotherhood" on the back.
"I think I'd be lying to you if I told you it was just like playing another game," said Ronny, who played for Georgetown (1988-92) and later served as an assistant coach there. "I wanted to beat him something terrible. I think my guys felt that."
But his players were at a disadvantage against the taller and well-rested Hoyas. Georgetown's last game was Nov. 22, and Ball State played two games since, against No. 5 Kansas and Western Kentucky, in Las Vegas. The Cardinals, who like to play an up-tempo, pressing style, were playing their third game in four days, and they spent Saturday night flying from Nevada to Washington. They still came out and played hard and fast.
"We knew his brother was going to come in here and have his team amped and ready, because [playing his] older brother, he wants to have that say-so, that he beat him on his home court," Green said. "We had to bury them in the first half and come out strong."
That's what Georgetown did, opening the game with a 16-4 run, and then using an 11-1 run to pull away after Ball State closed to within four points. The Hoyas led 40-28 at halftime, and Green and Sapp were the catalysts behind one of their best halves of the season (56 percent shooting, 13 assists on 14 field goals).
The Hoyas had started slowly in their first four games of the season (average lead at halftime: four points), a trend that could partially be attributed to Green picking up fouls early and heading to the bench. Green said that he was mindful of that, but at the same time, he didn't want it to affect his aggressiveness.
The 6-foot-9 forward set up the first basket of the game, threading a nice pass to a cutting Jonathan Wallace for a layup. Green had three assists in the first 20 minutes, as the Hoyas cut hard against Ball State's aggressive man-to-man. He scored 12 points in the first half and didn't miss a shot from the field (4 for 4, including two three-pointers).
Sapp was dynamic, pushing the ball upcourt following turnovers or defensive rebounds, and creating easy shots for Green, Summers and Marc Egerson. He had seven assists in 18 first-half minutes -- almost as many assists as he had in the first four games combined (nine).
"He threw a lot of scoring passes, which he has a knack for doing," John III said. "He's slowly developing. . . . Jessie is a ballplayer; he is going to figure out situations and make us better."
John III said that he didn't look down at the Ball State bench until there was about three minutes left in the game, when Georgetown led by 20 and had the game clearly in hand.
The two brothers will get to do this again next year; Georgetown has promised a return game in Muncie, Ind.
"We may cancel that," John III said with a smile. "This was hard. I knew it would be difficult, and it was much more difficult than I thought it would be."
Hoyas Notes: Junior Tyler Crawford, who was not at the past two games because of strep throat, was on the bench, though he was not in uniform. John III said that Crawford lost about 25 pounds last week because of the illness. . . . Rich Chvotkin, who became Georgetown's radio play-by-play announcer in the 1974-75 season, was honored at halftime for his 1,000th broadcast.