As Hibbert Rises, So Do Hoyas

By Camille Powell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 16, 2007

Roy Hibbert's line in the box score from Georgetown's 56-52 loss to Villanova on Jan. 8 looks so strange now, especially considering the way that the 7-foot-2 junior has been tearing through the Big East lately. Against the Wildcats, Hibbert was 0 for 0 from the field, 2 for 6 from the foul line and had just three rebounds (two offensive) in 24 minutes of play.

"It was the worst game I've ever felt," Hibbert said. After that, "I put it upon myself that whenever I get the ball down low in the post, if I have a chance to score, I'm going to score."

He has been doing a lot of that lately. In the 14th-ranked Hoyas' past three games -- victories over Louisville, No. 12 Marquette and No. 23 West Virginia, which are a combined 23-13 in Big East play -- Hibbert is averaging 21 points on 74 percent shooting (20 for 27) and 9.3 rebounds. He is shooting 88.5 percent (23 for 26) from the foul line. He was named the conference player of the week for the second time in three weeks, and tomorrow, he gets to face the one Big East team that managed to shut him down.

During yesterday's Big East conference call, Jay Wright was asked if he thought that his team would be able to once again hold Hibbert to zero field goal attempts. The Villanova coach chuckled, and then said that he didn't think that was realistic.

"Roy Hibbert, where he just scares you is his skill, his footwork, his touch and his length. I don't know if there's anybody like him in the country," said Wright, whose team has a four-game winning streak. "He's a unique challenge. Because he's the kind of guy if he's around the basket, he's got such great touch and such great length, that he's going to score or get fouled."

The Hoyas' problem in the first meeting between the teams was they couldn't get Hibbert the ball. Georgetown committed a season-high 22 turnovers against Villanova, and nearly half of them came on entry passes into the post. Coach John Thompson III said both the passers and receivers were at fault and needed to do a better job.

The Wildcats often defend the low post by fronting players. Villanova rotated two defenders against Hibbert: 6-8 senior Will Sheridan and 6-10 freshman Casiem Drummond. In the first meeting, Hibbert didn't put up his first shot until nearly 6 1/2 minutes had elapsed (he was fouled, wiping out the field goal attempt) -- and that came off an offensive rebound.

"We just struggled," said junior forward Jeff Green, who attempted only five shots and scored seven points against Villanova. "We shot ourselves in the foot by giving up 22 turnovers, and I feel like we didn't do a good enough job presenting Roy with the ball early in the game, and that kind of stabbed us in the back at the end of the game. We need for him to get on a roll for us to try to get a win."

Hibbert has done that in the past three games. In the first 6 1/2 minutes against Louisville, for instance, Hibbert had two dunks and scored eight of Georgetown's first 12 points; he finished with 20 points in the 73-65 win.

Although his teammates say that it's important for Hibbert to establish himself early in games, Hibbert tries to stay within the Georgetown offense, which is based on making reads. He said he goes through a mental checklist when he gets the ball in the low post: "If it's early in the shot clock, I'm not going to shoot it; I'm going to work the ball around," he said. "If I see the double-team coming, I'm going to pass it out to my open guys. If it's a one-on-one coverage late in the shot clock, I know it's my time to try to score."

Lately, he's been quicker and more confident in his decision-making. Said Hibbert: "I need to be able to do this to make sure the team wins. I can't be lethargic when I'm out there."

According to Wright, the biggest difference now is that Hibbert is more comfortable when he gets the ball. He knows where the defense is and where the help is coming from, so he can make a quick move or find the open player.

"That's something [where] you can watch film and you can tell a player that, but it takes the length of the season to get a feel for that," Wright said. "They've seen how people, the different ways they can play him, and they've also seen different ways they can get him the ball. [Hibbert is] very comfortable with it right now. When a very good player gets in that rhythm -- knowing where he's going to get it, when he's going to get it and how the defense is going to play -- that's when they're really good."

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