Hoyas' Defense Locks Up Retrievers
Saturday, March 22, 2008
RALEIGH, N.C., March 21 -- As the players on second-seeded Georgetown sat in their locker room prior to their first-round NCAA Midwest Region game on Friday afternoon, they kept hearing cheers from other parts of RBC Center. At the same time that the Hoyas were trying to mentally prepare to face 15th-seeded Maryland-Baltimore County, Davidson and its extraordinary guard, Stephen Curry, were dazzling the partisan sell-out crowd.
But after their 66-47 victory over UMBC, the Hoyas will get a chance to see firsthand what they could watch only on television and hear through the walls. Georgetown (28-5) will face the 10th-seeded Wildcats (27-6), who beat seventh-seeded Gonzaga behind Curry's 40 points, on Sunday afternoon.
"He's a real good player," senior center Roy Hibbert said of Curry. "We'll go over some more film and go over the scouting report and figure out how we can stop him."
Hibbert was one of four Hoyas who scored in double-figures against UMBC. He and guard Jonathan Wallace each had 13 points, as the Hoyas shot 51 percent.
UMBC (24-9) was making its first trip to the NCAA tournament since moving up to Division I in 1986-87. But the Retrievers, who swept the America East regular season and tournament titles, came to Raleigh brimming with confidence. They felt that they matched up well with Georgetown, and that they could out-work their bigger opponent on rebounds -- something that Pittsburgh did to great effect in the Big East tournament final. Less than three minutes into the game, UMBC's 5-foot-8 point guard Jay Greene darted around Hibbert to grab a rebound off of a missed free throw by Darryl Proctor.
"I thought Coach was about to pull me and put me on the bench," said Hibbert, who finished with seven rebounds as Georgetown held a 40-29 lead. "I chalk that one up to me right there. I didn't see him, to tell you the truth. He's 5-8. He ran around me and made a tremendous play. Luckily that didn't set the tone for the game."
What did set the tone was Georgetown's defense. The Hoyas held UMBC to season lows in points (47) and field goals (16), and its second-lowest shooting percentage (.320). Unlike Duke and Tennessee -- fellow No. 2 seeds that struggled to put away Belmont and American, respectively -- the Hoyas took control in the first half during a seven-minute span in which they held the Retrievers scoreless.
UMBC trailed 18-17 following a three-pointer from senior Brian Hodges (11 points) with 8 minutes 8 seconds left until halftime. But the Retrievers missed their next eight shots -- including five from beyond the three-point arc -- in that seven-minute stretch, and were unable to come up with a single offensive rebound.
Meantime, Georgetown was able to get good shots: freshman Austin Freeman (11 points) scored along the baseline, Wallace had a wide-open three off of a kick-out pass from Hibbert, and Hibbert scored inside. After freshman Chris Wright (eight points) converted another open three-pointer, the Hoyas led, 31-17. UMBC finally broke its drought with a three-pointer by senior Ray Barbosa with 1:06 left until halftime.
Defense "was the main focus all week," junior Jessie Sapp said. "We know those guys can shoot, so we wanted to get a hand up on every possession and every shot they took."
Georgetown extended its advantage to 48-29 over the first eight minutes of the second half, at one point forcing UMBC -- which was ranked second in the country in fewest turnovers per game (9.5) -- into turning the ball over on three straight possessions. At times, the Hoyas went with a smaller line-up -- 6-8 Patrick Ewing Jr. (10 points) at center, instead of the 7-foot-2 Hibbert -- and they didn't miss a beat.
The Hoyas are 2-0 in second-round games under Coach John Thompson III, and both were battles: They upset second-seeded Ohio State in Dayton in 2006, and they needed a second-half comeback to beat Boston College last year.
Davidson -- which Georgetown beat in each of Thompson's first two seasons -- presents another challenge. Thompson referred to Curry as one of the "more special players" in the tournament and praised not only Curry's shooting ability, but also the way his teammates work to get him the ball. Later, Wallace was asked if the Hoyas were going to fight over the opportunity to defend Curry.
"We won't have to fight over it, because everyone is going to have to guard him," he said. "With as many screens as he runs off of, it's going to take everybody in this locker room to chase him."
Hoyas Note : Wallace left the game briefly in the first half after falling hard on his right wrist, but said that he is all right. He initially injured the wrist against Providence on Feb. 18 and has been playing with it taped ever since.