By Camille Powell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 2, 2007
NEW YORK, Feb. 1 -- The change in the Georgetown men's basketball team came so suddenly in its 72-48 victory over St. John's on Thursday night that it was as if Coach John Thompson III merely flipped a switch. One moment the Hoyas looked lethargic and sloppy, and then all of a sudden they were sharp and almost unstoppable en route to winning their fifth straight game.
"We woke up," said junior guard Jonathan Wallace, who had 13 points and four rebounds. "We kind of muddled around in the first half and let them dictate the tempo, but we regrouped at the half, and we knew that we had to kick it into overdrive if we wanted to be in the game. So that kind of carried us over."
Did it ever. During an 11-minute span that included the final four minutes of the first half and the first seven minutes of the second half, the Hoyas outscored the Red Storm by a 30-4 margin and turned a 10-point deficit into a rout.
Junior forward Jeff Green scored a career-high 24 points and had eight rebounds and four assists. Eight players scored for Georgetown, including senior reserve Sead Dizdarevic, whose three-pointer in the final minute (his first points of the season) caused his teammates on the bench to leap to their feet.
Georgetown (16-5, 6-2) used this just-completed stretch of five games against teams in the bottom half of the Big East standings to move into a three-way tie for second place in the conference, behind No. 7 Pittsburgh (20-3, 8-1). But the schedule gets tougher for the Hoyas from here; they travel to Louisville (16-6, 6-2) next Wednesday, and then host No. 14 Marquette (19-4, 6-2) and West Virginia (17-4, 6-3) in a three-day span (Feb. 10-12).
The Red Storm (12-10, 3-6) may have entered the game sitting in 10th place in the Big East, but it had won its past two home games -- against Syracuse and No. 21 Notre Dame. And regardless of the Red Storm's record, it always seems to cause the Hoyas problems at Madison Square Garden; Georgetown's 79-65 win last January was its first against St. John's inside this arena in nine seasons.
For the first 16 minutes on Thursday, it appeared as if the Hoyas were going to replay their previous Garden struggles. The Red Storm built a 26-16 lead, as St. John's got good looks at the basket and ran down rebounds and loose balls. But Georgetown closed the half on a furious run, with Wallace and sophomore Jessie Sapp making three-pointers to help cut the deficit to 28-27 at the break.
That gave the Hoyas a boost, and they came flying out of the locker room. Wallace made a three-pointer from the top of the arc -- which gave the Hoyas their first lead, 30-28, since the third minute of the game -- and then scored on a drive. The Hoyas worked the ball inside to 7-foot-2 Roy Hibbert three times, which resulted in two trips to the free throw line and a missed shot that Green dunked. Green sank a long three-pointer, and Sapp drove to the basket, clearing the way with a sly pass-fake and converting an easy layup. Sapp then fed a cutting DaJuan Summers for another easy layup.
"On the offensive end, we just stayed with our stuff and just ran our stuff very fluently," said Green, who made 9 of 13 shots, including three dunks. "We made all of the hustle plays, and if we keep communicating and make all of the hustle plays we can play like we did in the second half."
That's a frightening thought. In the second half, Georgetown's defense harassed St. John's into missing 17 of 25 shots. The Hoyas shot 73.9 percent after halftime and got every kind of shot they wanted, from layups to open three-pointers, and outscored St. John's by a 45-20 margin. Thompson was asked after the game if the way the Hoyas moved the ball in the second half was "as good as it can get."
"I don't know if I'm ever going to be ready to say yes to that," Thompson said with a smile. "But it was pretty good. It started at the other end, it started with our defensive intensity, it started with us running down loose balls and getting rebounds. And that just carried over into an easy flow and hardness we had at the offensive end."
Hoyas Note: Junior Patrick Ewing Jr. had five points and freshman Jeremiah Rivers had one assist and one rebound as they returned to Madison Square Garden, where their fathers played for the New York Knicks. Both Patrick Ewing Sr. and Doc Rivers were in the crowd of 7,797.