By Liz Clarke
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, December 1, 2008
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla., Nov. 30 -- With a storied history between them and 15 years' pent-up demand for a regular season rematch, Sunday's showdown between Georgetown and Maryland had the makings of a classic.
It was a rout instead, with Georgetown snuffing out Maryland's shooting star Greivis Vasquez (held to two points) and staging its most complete offensive performance this season.
The result was a 75-48 Hoyas victory that lifts their record to 4-1 and represented a third-place finish in the Old Spice Classic's field of eight.
But it meant far more to the players involved.
"Bragging rights," said Georgetown senior guard Jessie Sapp, who teamed with Chris Wright to hold Vasquez to 1-of-7 shooting.
Though Sapp is from New York rather than Washington, he knew well the symbolism behind the victory -- even if the game was played 850 miles from either campus -- and raised his arms as he watched the final minutes from the sideline, coaxing the sparse Hoyas fan contingent to an ovation.
The game marked the resumption of a series that for decades conferred basketball hegemony in the Washington area. Georgetown dominated in the 1940s and '50s. Maryland gained the upper hand in the '70s. But the Hoyas bowed out of the annual tilt shortly after signing on as a charter member of the Big East Conference in 1979, and a dispute over which school owes the other the next "home" game has stalled talk of a resumption.
They have met just twice since 1981 -- a 1993 game at USAir Arena, and a round-of-16 meeting in the 2001 NCAA tournament -- with Maryland winning both.
The rooting section for both teams was thin Sunday at the 5,000-seat Milk House at Walt Disney World sports complex outside Orlando.
Still, most of the players who jogged onto the court knew each other well, having grown up playing ball in the Washington area. Three starters on each team were from Maryland or Northern Virginia. So the game should have sizzled with the passion of a playground showdown.
But Maryland (4-2) came out flat and off-target, missing seven of its first nine shots. Vasquez was held scoreless in the first half and turned the ball over four times in a frantic attempt to find his teammates.
Coach Gary Williams sent him to the bench for the final 11 minutes of the game and remained perplexed afterward.
"He has played against good defenses before," Williams said of Vasquez. "We weren't able to get him shots, to get him scoring. I really don't know why he struggled so much. He just didn't seem to have his usual quickness."
Maryland proved rudderless without him. Only one starter scored in double figures for the Terrapins -- Eric Hayes, whose 11 points were matched by sub Adrian Bowie.
Maryland shot 31.6 percent and hit just three of its 18 attempts from three-point range.
The final score would have been more lopsided had Georgetown Coach John Thompson III not turned to backups Omar Wattad and Julian Vaughn, as well as freshmen Henry Sims and Jason Clark, in the second half.
Austin Freeman, a sophomore guard from Mitchellville, led the Hoyas with 18 points and six rebounds. Also in double figures: DaJuan Summers (14 points), freshman center Greg Monroe (12 points, six rebounds) and Sapp (10 points).
"The stars just aligned themselves well for us," said Thompson, as if serendipity rather than across-the-board superiority had determined the outcome.
But Georgetown's strong defensive showing was particularly encouraging given the 90 points it surrendered in Friday's loss to No. 12 Tennessee.
Sunday's game offered contrast in styles, pitting Georgetown's imposing front court against Maryland's vaunted speed and tenacity from the perimeter.
While the Hoyas took a step forward by nearly every statistical measure following the Tennessee loss (they won the battle of the boards, 35-24, and reduced their turnovers), Maryland regressed during the four-day tournament.
The unranked Terrapins were the story of the opening round, toppling fifth-ranked Michigan State to send notice that they were a team to be reckoned with, brandishing quickness, intensity and shooting prowess to compensate for any deficiency in size.
But they were manhandled by ninth-ranked Gonzaga. And against 21st-ranked Georgetown -- a cross-town rival that should have had their competitive juices flowing -- they turned in an error-prone effort on offense and made a half-hearted stab at defense.
Said Thompson: "I feel like our team improved this week. We learned a few lessons from that Tennessee game and a few from this game. We were better today than we were the other day."