Once-Sluggish Hoyas Shift Into Gear
Sunday, December 31, 2006
ANN ARBOR, Mich., Dec. 30 -- Georgetown's first trip to the University of Michigan was a game that, in the words of junior guard Jonathan Wallace, "kind of checks our oil going into conference play."
The Hoyas are running much more smoothly than they were earlier in the season, when they lost three games in two weeks to plummet out of the national rankings. They completed their nonconference schedule Saturday with a 67-51 victory over the Wolverines in front of an announced crowd of 13,751 at Crisler Arena.
Georgetown (10-3) will enter next Saturday's Big East opener against No. 19 Notre Dame having won six consecutive games by an average of 26.7 points. They dominated the Wolverines (12-3), a team that had faltered in its previous big games (N.C. State, UCLA) but that was eager for an opportunity to pick up a signature win.
"It's a big momentum boost for our team, just to get the confidence going into the Big East," junior forward Jeff Green said. "It gives us a head start going on the road in the Big East."
The Hoyas had four players score in double digits, led by junior center Roy Hibbert (14 points), and shot 52.3 percent as a team. They had 18 assists on their 23 field goals. They won by 16 points on the road, and they held Michigan to season lows in points and field goal shooting (36.4 percent). But after the game, Coach John Thompson III said, "This is clearly a game where a couple of weeks ago, the outcome may not have been what it was today."
In the first half, the Hoyas got wide-open looks at the basket, thanks to their ball movement and cutting, but they missed six layups and one dunk. Neither Green (10 points) nor Hibbert was dominant, and earlier in the season, that would have affected Georgetown's overall play. Green missed his first six shots -- including one sequence where he blew a layup as well as the follow-up dunk -- and was limited to just 23 minutes because of foul trouble.
But other players stepped up. Reserve sophomore forward Marc Egerson had 11 points, 7 rebounds and 3 assists.
"I've said from day one that we're going to go as Jeff goes, but we're getting to the point and soon we'll be at the point where we don't necessarily need him [to have big games]," Thompson said. "I want him to have huge games for us to win. But we have other guys that have gained confidence and are getting a better feel for the flow of the game and how we need to win."
Georgetown took control of the game early and led by as many as 11 points in the first 19 minutes. But the Wolverines closed the first half with a 5-0 run, capped by Dion Harris's three-point shot shortly before the buzzer, and went into the break trailing 31-25.
The Hoyas wanted to make sure that Michigan's momentum didn't carry over into the second half, and they did so making their first four shots. Wallace sank an open three-pointer from the right side, and then scored on a layup off a pass from Green (four assists). Freshman DaJuan Summers made a three, and Green finally hit a shot -- a three-pointer from the left corner that gave Georgetown a 42-25 lead with 17 minutes 3 seconds remaining.
"Guys are starting to see, if we stick to our stuff and stick to our offense, certain things are going to open up," said Wallace, who scored 12 points. "Guys are getting more comfortable with our offensive system in general. Playing against a good team, and seeing that it works against a good team, should build our confidence going into our next game facing Notre Dame."
The Hoyas have an especially daunting opening week in the Big East; after Notre Dame, they play Villanova on Jan. 8 and then travel to No. 10 Pittsburgh on Jan. 13, with both games being broadcast nationally on ESPN.
"We better be ready," said Thompson, whose team is shooting 54.6 percent during its current winning streak. "We have a week and then the real thing starts. [pause] But I think we are."