Feeling the Pressure, Hoyas Can't Hold On

Villanova's Scottie Reynolds tries to gain control of the ball between Georgetown's Jeff Green and DaJuan Summers, right. (AP)
Villanova's Scottie Reynolds tries to gain control of the ball between Georgetown's Jeff Green and DaJuan Summers, right. (AP)
By Camille Powell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Fortunes can change quickly in the Big East. Just three days ago, Georgetown and junior Roy Hibbert looked dominant in their conference opener against Notre Dame. But last night, the Hoyas were unable to get the ball to their 7-foot-2 center and they faltered in the face of Villanova's pressure, losing, 56-52, in front of 11,816 at Verizon Center.

This was the start of a showcase week for the Hoyas, who dominated then-No. 17 Notre Dame on Saturday and were making the first of two appearances on ESPN. Georgetown (11-4, 1-1) will play at No. 7 Pittsburgh (14-2, 2-0) Saturday night.

Meantime, Villanova (11-4, 1-2), the defending regular season co-champion, was trying desperately to avoid starting out 0-3 in the Big East. Freshman guard Scottie Reynolds, an All-Met from Herndon High, scored a team-high 16 points in front of what appeared to be a large contingent of Herndon fans in the upper deck.

"This all fell into place for him," Villanova Coach Jay Wright said of Reynolds, who had a career-high 25 points against DePaul on Saturday. "He played great against DePaul, he was coming home. . . . We had to drive the ball, and he does it the best. I think the stars aligned."

The Hoyas struggled against Villanova's trapping zone press. They committed a season-high 22 turnovers -- 10 from their primary ballhandlers, junior Jonathan Wallace and sophomore Jessie Sapp -- that Villanova turned into 16 points. The pressure also disrupted Georgetown's offensive rhythm.

That was the main goal, according to Wright. "They're so big and their half-court offense is probably one of the best in the country, so we wanted to limit playing against that as much as possible," Wright said.

"They try to slow you down," said Wallace, who scored 12 points. "At times, we were able to break it and get into our offense and get easy buckets, and at other times it kind of affected us. . . . The pace was a lot different [from the Notre Dame game]. I think that's what Villanova came out with intention of -- slowing us down, not letting us get into rhythm like we did against Notre Dame."

And Villanova didn't let junior forward Jeff Green (seven points) or Hibbert dominate the interior, like they did against the Irish (a combined 33 points on 14-of-20 shooting).

The Wildcats did an especially good job on Hibbert, who was virtually unstoppable inside in the second half on Saturday. Villanova's perimeter defense made it difficult for the Hoyas to get clear looks at Hibbert, and 6-foot-8 senior Will Sheridan and 6-10 freshman Casiem Drummond worked hard to deny him the ball. Hibbert finished without a field goal attempt in 26 minutes, and was 2 for 6 from the free throw line.

In the first half, Hibbert rarely touched the ball, outside of his two rebounds. Nearly 26 minutes had elapsed before he finally got the ball on the block and was able to make a move to the basket; he was fouled by Drummond and made one of the two free throws.

"We threw it away trying to throw it in [to Hibbert], repeatedly," Georgetown Coach John Thompson III said. "We have to continue to work on that. We tried to get it into him. We have to do a better job of him getting position, and of feeding the post."

Georgetown clung to a 43-40 lead with 10 minutes 23 seconds remaining, but the Hoyas didn't make enough plays down the stretch. Over the next seven minutes, Georgetown scored one point, a Hibbert free throw. The Hoyas committed three turnovers in that span, and when they weren't throwing the ball away, they were taking rushed shots as the shot clock wound down.

Georgetown trailed by four with 1:41 to play, but Green came up with a steal and made two free throws to cut the deficit to two. He then drew a charging foul on Reynolds to give the Hoyas the ball with a chance to tie the game, but freshman DaJuan Summers missed a three-pointer with 23 seconds left. Summers had a team-high 16 points.

"We've just got to go back to the drawing board and watch film, and keep Jeff and Roy involved in the game," Wallace said. "We can't let them get lost in the shuffle."

© 2007 The Washington Post Company