By Camille Powell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, January 7, 2007; E01
Jessie Sapp stood near midcourt and dribbled the ball as the final seconds of Georgetown's 66-48 victory over 17th-ranked Notre Dame ran off the clock and the crowd at Verizon Center stood and cheered.
This was the kind of moment -- jubilant -- and the kind of performance -- dominant on offense and defense, inside and outside -- that Georgetown fans envisioned seeing over and over, but hadn't yet seen, during this highly anticipated season. The Hoyas ended Notre Dame's 12-game winning streak in front of a season-high crowd of 15,506, which included House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Georgetown's victory, its first over a ranked opponent this season, extended what has been a volatile first week in the Big East. Notre Dame (13-2, 1-1) became the third ranked team to lose to an unranked opponent, following then-No. 12 Connecticut's loss to West Virginia on Dec. 30 and No. 15 Marquette's loss to Providence on Thursday.
But this result shouldn't have been a shock. The Hoyas (11-3, 1-0) finally put together the kind of game that led them to be ranked eighth in the country in the preseason and to be picked to finish second in the Big East in the preseason coaches' poll.
"I think everything came together right now on offense and defense," said junior Roy Hibbert, who had a game-high 18 points on 8-of-9 shooting. "It's a great morale boost. . . . We're coming for everybody. We're not going to come up and sneak up on anybody. They know we're coming."
The victory was a testament to Georgetown's balance, both offensively and defensively. Junior forward Jeff Green (15 points) got the Hoyas off to a good start, with two three-pointers, a layup and an assist as Georgetown opened up an 18-2 lead in the first five minutes of the game.
Junior guard Jonathan Wallace (13 points) had eight points in Georgetown's 13-5 run to start the second half, a key stretch because Notre Dame had closed to within 11 points at the break. And the 7-foot-2 Hibbert was unstoppable inside during a five-minute span in the second half, scoring 10 points to help break the game wide open. The Hoyas, as a team, shot 56.8 percent.
"That's how we're going to win," said Sapp, who had 10 points, 3 assists and 4 steals.
"That's who we are," said Coach John Thompson III, whose team hosts Villanova tomorrow night. "We have a lot of different people that can step up and help out. . . . We did have offensive balance today, but we need to stop throwing the ball away so much [17 turnovers] and make our foul shots [6 for 13]. Other than that, it was pretty good."
Georgetown's defense, however, was extremely good against Notre Dame, which began the week ranked third in Division I in scoring offense (88.8 points). The Irish needed nearly 16 minutes to break the 10-point barrier, and they failed to score at least 50 points for the first time ever in Big East play (186 regular season games). Notre Dame shot a season-low 30.8 percent, including a woeful 18.2 percent (4 for 22) on three-point attempts.
"The defensive intensity was very, very good -- I can't overstate that," Thompson said. "That is a very, very good offensive team. Looking at the tapes you think, we're not going to stop them, so hopefully we're going to score. It turned out we did a good job today."
Georgetown used its defense to spark its offense; the Hoyas made a point of pushing the ball following turnovers or rebounds. Late in the first half, Green blocked a three-point attempt from Russell Carter (team-high 12 points). Carter recovered the ball, only to have it stripped by Sapp, who started the break and then lobbed a no-look, alley-oop pass to Green. That basket gave Georgetown a 29-9 advantage with 4 minutes 35 seconds until halftime.
"I thought they came out on us like they came out on Duke last year," said Notre Dame Coach Mike Brey, referring to Georgetown's 87-84 win over top-ranked and undefeated Duke last January. "I reminded our guys it was they [who] were the second pick in the poll. This is a good basketball team, and I am glad we don't play them again."