Hoyas' Combination Finally Is Revealed

By Camille Powell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, February 12, 2007

As the final seconds ran off the clock in Georgetown's 76-58 victory over 11th-ranked Marquette on Saturday afternoon, the two players most responsible for the 22nd-ranked Hoyas' dominance hugged each other in front of their bench. Juniors Roy Hibbert and Jeff Green combined for 47 points and 16 rebounds against the Golden Eagles, just three days after overwhelming Louisville with a combined 36 points and 18 rebounds.

The 7-foot-2 center and 6-9 forward have been leading the Hoyas, who host West Virginia tonight at Verizon Center, as many expected them to do before the season began. But it's taken time; remember Georgetown's 57-50 loss to Oregon on Nov. 29 (total of nine points on 4-of-11 shooting), or the 56-52 loss to Villanova on Jan. 8 (total of nine points on 2-of-5 shooting, no attempts by Hibbert).

Since the beginning of last season, Hibbert and Green have started alongside one another 56 times; they've both scored in double digits in only 20 of those games. In Big East play this season, they've both reached double digits in points in six games.

Hibbert and Green were both unanimous selections by the coaches for the preseason all-Big East team. But they began the season surrounded by inexperienced players (such as freshman DaJuan Summers) or players moving into new roles (sophomore Jessie Sapp and junior Jonathan Wallace).

Hall of Fame coach John Thompson Jr., father of Hoyas Coach John Thompson III, thought that Hibbert and Green were in a difficult situation being surrounded by so many new players, and the two juniors felt that they had to help the newcomers, which affected their own games.

"It's a normal tendency for Jeff and Roy to try to help the new guys and to try to show them what they're doing," Thompson Jr. said after the game on Saturday. "This was my personal opinion. And now I think they sense normalcy. They're now dealing with it a little differently. Both of them are becoming more aggressive than they were before."

Thompson III didn't disagree with his father, but he offered a slightly different view. The other Hoyas, he said, now have a better feel of how and when to get Hibbert and Green the ball. They also have a better understanding of how opponents are going to try take away the big men, and how they should counter that.

"You go into the year, look at Roy, Jeff and Jon, you're looking at the only guys with experience," Thompson III said. "Early on in the year, all of us, there was a lot of teaching, a lot of helping, maybe too much on the court. Now they have settled in. It's not so much [that Green and Hibbert are] saying, 'Now I need to play.' Everyone else has matured, everyone else has improved, everyone else understands what we're trying to do, which allows them to go and play."

Both Green and Hibbert have played well in the Hoyas' current seven-game winning streak. Both are shooting better than 50 percent from the floor for the season; Hibbert is leading the nation in field goal percentage (.703). Both are averaging 13.1 points per game, tied for the team lead.

Green, who averaged just 7.5 shots per game during the Hoyas' nonconference schedule, is taking 11 shots per game in Big East play. Against both Louisville and Marquette, he made open mid-range jump shots. He has become a more consistent outside shooter (.441 from three-point range). At one point in the second half on Saturday, he had the ball just outside the arc, and pivoted one way, then the other and suddenly the defenders sagged off him; Green coolly sank the three-pointer.

Hibbert played a career-high 35 minutes against both Louisville and Marquette. He has been much more active at both ends of the floor, going hard after rebounds and stepping in to block shots, and he is strongly finishing plays on the offensive end. One sequence late in the first half against Marquette stood out: Right after the Golden Eagles took their only lead of the game, 26-25, the Hoyas responded by going inside to Hibbert, who threw down a basket-shaking two-handed dunk. He then ran hard to the other end of the court and blocked a shot by the quick Dominic James.

"We just work inside out," Green said. When Marquette "single-covered Roy, he got easy layups. When they doubled some times, I was out there on the perimeter knocking down shots. That's the way we've got to play. We've got to start with Roy and work our way out. He's the leader of this team and we go through him. If we get him involved early in the game, that works out for us in the end."

"They've been playing together for [three] years now, and over time they've been able to figure out where each other is going to be," Wallace said. "It's almost like a second nature to them."

© 2007 The Washington Post Company