By Camille Powell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, January 25, 2007
The last time Georgetown fans saw their men's basketball team at Verizon Center was 16 days ago, and their Hoyas looked like a very different team last night. The squad that lost to Villanova on Jan. 8 was out of sync and sloppy. The group that efficiently put away DePaul, 66-52, last night was confident and assured in front of an enthusiastic crowd of 9,315 that included Gilbert Arenas.
"It feels like it was just yesterday," junior forward Jeff Green said of the Villanova loss. "This is our first home game since that, and coming back into this arena, you still have that feeling of the last time on this court. So we had to come out hard in the early parts of the first and second half."
The Hoyas (14-5, 4-2 Big East) won their third straight and moved up behind No. 9 Pittsburgh (18-3, 6-1) and No. 15 Marquette (18-4, 5-2) in the conference standings.
DePaul was expected to be much stiffer competition than the teams the Hoyas blew out on the road last week, Rutgers and Seton Hall. The Blue Demons (12-9, 3-4) are an experienced squad with victories over Kansas and Villanova and have a lineup that features two of the top scorers in the conference, guard Sammy Mejia and forward Wilson Chandler.
But Georgetown was too balanced for the Blue Demons. Four Hoyas scored in double figures, led by Green's 19 points. Georgetown, the best shooting team in the Big East, shot 53.3 percent for the game and committed a season-low seven turnovers.
Green, who was honored before the game for becoming the 37th Hoya to score 1,000 points in his career, was aggressive right from the start, which is always a good sign for Georgetown. Four minutes into the game, he made an open three-pointer, and three minutes later, he got the ball on the left side and drove hard to the basket, slicing through the defense and finishing the play with a layup. Green, who averages eight shots per game, took 13 (tying his season high) and made seven. He made 2 of 3 three-point attempts.
"We just give him the ball and we ride him until he cools down. But hopefully he never cools down," said freshman DaJuan Summers, who had 12 points and six rebounds, and also defended Mejia (five points) for much of the game. "We give him the ball, and we feed off him and let things come to us."
DePaul kept the game close for the first 30 minutes. The Blue Demons shot nearly 70 percent in the first half (13 for 19), and built a six-point lead, largely behind the hot outside shooting of junior guard Draelon Burns (20 points).
But freshman guard Jeremiah Rivers (four points, four rebounds) and junior guard Jonathan Wallace (11 points) helped the Hoyas close the gap in the final five minutes of the first half. Rivers scored off a nice drive, drew a charging foul on Mejia that wiped out a layup, and found an open Wallace in the corner for a three-pointer. Wallace made another three-pointer in the final seconds that tied the score at 30 entering the break.
The Hoyas did a better job on the defensive end in the second half, forcing DePaul into tough shots (7-of-26 shooting). They also were effective using a smaller, quicker lineup for stretches, with 6-foot-8 Patrick Ewing Jr. playing instead of 7-2 Roy Hibbert (12 points).
Georgetown used an 18-8 run to take control and open up a 51-43 lead with 7 minutes 22 seconds remaining. Everyone seemed to contribute offensively during that stretch, whether it was Summers running into the stands to save a ball and a possession that led to a dunk by Hibbert, or Green scoring inside, or sophomore Jessie Sapp (five assists) threading a pass that set up a slam by Summers. The Hoyas committed just two turnovers and shot 52 percent in the final 20 minutes.
"In the second half, we wanted to try to keep a body in front of them, and we were fortunate that the balls that were going in the first half, didn't go in the second half," Georgetown Coach John Thompson III said. Offensively, "we were getting antsy. Everyone was trying to make a play, everyone was trying to come down individually and get the knock-out punch. At a timeout we said, 'Let's relax. Let's run our stuff, stick with our offense, and the shots will come easier.' As opposed to one person make a play, just let it flow."
Hoyas Note: Freshman forward Vernon Macklin, who often subs in for Hibbert, did not play, though he was in uniform. Thompson said Macklin is healthy.