By Camille Powell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, December 21, 2006
The game was in its final minutes and the outcome was not in doubt, but Towson senior guard Gary Neal was still shooting. He pulled up for a three-pointer with Georgetown's Tyler Crawford running hard at him, and after the shot went in, Crawford could do nothing but shake his head.
Neal, the 10th-leading scorer in the nation, got his points; he scored a game-high 26. But Georgetown used a balanced, all-around effort to easily pull away from the Tigers, 69-41, before 5,654 at Verizon Center.
The Hoyas shot a season-high 58.7 percent from the field -- their fourth straight game of better than 55 percent shooting -- and 57.1 percent (12 for 21) from three-point range. Freshman DaJuan Summers scored a career-high 18 points.
Neal, who entered the game averaging 22.2 points, is the unquestioned focal point of Towson's offense. He took 161 shots in the Tigers' first nine games -- nearly 100 shots more than any other player on the roster. No other Tiger averages double digits in points.
So the Hoyas kept a close eye on Neal. When they played zone, they made sure they knew where Neal was. When they played man-to-man, different players took turns defending the 6-foot-4 Neal: the quick Jessie Sapp, the physical Crawford, the bigger Marc Egerson (6-6, 237 pounds), the taller Summers (6-8). Even freshman Jeremiah Rivers, who had not played since severely spraining his right ankle against Duke on Dec. 2, guarded Neal for a possession.
But Neal still got his points; he made 7 of 13 shots from the field (7 for 9 from three-point range). Anytime he got a sliver of space, he put up a shot; he took shots even when he didn't.
"Did anybody guard Gary tonight?" Georgetown Coach John Thompson III said. "Gary is a scorer. . . . He's one of those players where you forget all your training -- you look at that line and think he's not going to shoot from back there, but he does. We have to get used to that. Notre Dame has guys that do that. Marquette does. A lot of guys in our league have that range."
The Tigers, however, didn't have much outside of Neal; no other player scored more than six points and Towson shot 26.1 percent. In the first half, Neal scored 17 of the Tigers' 26 points; the rest of his teammates shot just 2 for 17 (12 percent) as Georgetown opened up a 34-26 advantage.
For Georgetown, junior center Roy Hibbert, the Hoyas' leading scorer, was limited by foul trouble and scored six points, and junior forward Jeff Green (12 points) never really looked in sync. That might have bothered Georgetown earlier in the season, but it didn't last night. Different players stepped up.
"What Towson did tonight, they threw different defenses at us to offset Jeff and Roy's production down low," junior guard Jonathan Wallace said. "Teams are going to try to keep the ball out of their hands, and guys paid attention to the scouting report and were ready to step up and make plays."
Wallace shot well from the outside against Towson's zone; he made all four of his three-point attempts in the first half and finished with 14 points. For the second game in a row, junior forward Patrick Ewing Jr. provided a spark off the bench with his energy and hustle; he scored six points, and the Hoyas pulled away when he entered the game in the second half.
"Early on in the year, that whole burden was on [Hibbert and Green] until everyone else adjusted and settled into new roles," Thompson said. "At this point now, different people have a comfort level. . . . The other guys are settling in and getting a comfort level, playing college basketball. It's a process. This team is slowly but surely improving. We don't have everything figured out, but we're getting there."
Hoyas Notes: Sophomore guard Josh Thornton, who left the Georgetown team during preseason, is transferring to Towson. . . .
Former Georgetown guard Ashanti Cook was in the crowd; he is playing for Braunschweig in Germany's Bundesliga. When Sapp missed a three-pointer midway through the second half, a fan yelled, "Ashanti would've made that!" . . . The Hoyas will host Navy on Saturday at Verizon Center.