By Camille Powell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, January 28, 2007
At 7 feet 2, Roy Hibbert is used to being the tallest player on the basketball court. The Georgetown junior, however, hasn't always been able to translate his size advantage into dominant performances.
But that wasn't the case yesterday, against a Cincinnati team whose tallest player stood six inches shorter. Hibbert was ruthless, fighting hard to get the ball and then attacking the basket, helping to lead the Hoyas to an 82-67 victory over the Bearcats before 13,106 at Verizon Center. He scored a career-high 26 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and blocked two shots as Georgetown (15-5, 5-2 Big East) won its fourth straight.
"Roy was very assertive today," said junior forward Jeff Green, who had 17 points and four assists in 39 minutes. "We knew coming in that he was going to have a big size advantage, so we wanted to throw the ball down to Roy and get him going. . . . We follow Roy, and Roy was the leader tonight."
The Bearcats -- who have a new coach (Mick Cronin) and a roster consisting of seven transfers (six from junior colleges), two walk-ons, a football player and a freshman -- fell to 10-10 overall and 1-5 in the Big East, and the margin of defeat would have been larger than 15 if they didn't shoot so well from beyond the arc.
Cincinnati, which entered the game ranked 287th in Division I in three-point shooting at 29.5 percent, made 11 of its first 13 shots from beyond the arc, and was 14 of 24 for the game (58.3 percent). Junior Marcus Sikes (19 points) made all five of his three-point attempts.
"I didn't realize what their stats were, but if you watch their games, they look like they can shoot, and it's different people," said Georgetown Coach John Thompson III, whose team was ranked first in three-point field goal defense in Big East play (24.8 percent). "We have to do a better job of defending the three-point line."
The Hoyas built a 16-point lead late in the first half, and they did it when Hibbert was on the bench and 6-9 freshman Vernon Macklin (four points in 11 minutes) was in the game. Thompson opted to keep Hibbert out, in part because he was happy with the way the offense was moving with the more athletic Macklin at center, but also because he expected the Bearcats to make a run, and he wanted to keep Hibbert fresh.
"If we can save him, rest him for the second half, I knew we wanted to pound it in to see if we could ride him the second half," Thompson said.
That's what the Hoyas did. Georgetown led 40-35 at halftime after Cincinnati scored 11 unanswered points to close the half. But over the first four minutes of the second half, the Hoyas repeatedly went inside to both Hibbert and the 6-9 Green, who combined to score eight straight points to open up a 48-35 edge with 16 minutes 31 seconds to play.
Cincinnati, which played predominantly zone, struggled to defend the Hoyas' two inside stars. On one Georgetown possession, the Bearcats committed four fouls while trying to muscle Hibbert or Green from behind; Sikes picked up his fourth and fifth fouls in a 13-second span against Hibbert, fouling out with 13:19 remaining. (Cronin said afterward that he left Sikes in the game because he thought the fourth foul was on another player.)
"Obviously their big guys were undersized, so I said I was going to establish myself," said Hibbert, who made 11 of 13 shots. "And that opened up a lot of stuff. . . . We all-around fed off each other."
The Hoyas were balanced; guards Jonathan Wallace and Jessie Sapp combined for 23 points and seven assists. After committing just seven turnovers against DePaul on Wednesday, the Hoyas had a season-low five turnovers against the Bearcats.
But Hibbert was the dominant force. During one 90-second stretch midway through the second half, he scored six straight points: He plucked a rebound from over a Cincinnati player and laid the ball in, he scored on a soft right-handed toss while keeping his defender on his hip, and then he tapped in a missed shot by Green.
"I think a lot of big guys are like that -- they play better against someone their size, as opposed to facing a lot of guys underneath you," Thompson said. "We are better now than we were early in the year at trying to figure out how to get him the ball. . . . As much as it's been his maturation, it's been our team as a whole, our growth."