By Liz Clarke
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, January 11, 2009
There was good reason for Georgetown's fans to fret when DaJuan Summers picked up his fourth foul with more than 15 minutes to play yesterday against Providence.
Before a supportive home crowd at Verizon Center, the No. 9 Hoyas were trying to halt a two-game slide in which Pittsburgh had exposed them as weak on the boards and Notre Dame had shown them to be precariously thin in scoring options.
The lingering impression from the back-to-back losses was that the young Hoyas weren't tough enough to distinguish themselves in the Big East, either unwilling or unable to mix it up with the league's burly big men.
So yesterday, with Summers relegated to the bench, Georgetown was forced to lean on two rarely seen freshmen, Jason Clark and Henry Sims. Teamed with their better-known classmate, Greg Monroe, the youngest Hoyas provided the grit needed to eke out an 82-75 victory over an upstart Providence squad that had soundly outplayed them in the first half.
In a game in which the momentum swung wildly, Georgetown (11-3, 2-2) took charge in the second half -- outscoring the Friars 21-2 during a span of 6 minutes 53 seconds -- and ended up placing five players in double figures.
Austin Freeman scored 18 points. He was joined by sophomore Chris Wright (16), Summers (12), Clark (10) and Monroe, who delivered his second consecutive double-double despite a largely silent first half, finishing with 13 points, 11 rebounds, 8 assists, 5 steals and 2 blocks.
"To have a player that size [6 feet 11] be that skilled is nice for any coach," Providence Coach Keno Davis said of Monroe, with more than a touch of envy in his voice. "Versatility is something everybody is looking for -- a guy with size, who can shoot, can pass, can block. He's a nice weapon for them to have."
Georgetown's victory snuffed out a four-game winning streak by Providence (11-5, 3-1), which had won seven of its last eight but hadn't faced a ranked team this season.
It also proved that Monroe isn't the only freshman ready to help the Hoyas.
Clark gave the Hoyas their first lead after a long stretch in which they had battled from behind with a three-pointer that made it 45-44. And Sims, a 6-10 backup center from Baltimore, flashed his defensive potential, getting two rebounds and a block while adding five points in 14 minutes.
"It comes with time," Coach John Thompson III said, "but both Jason and Henry -- and Gregory [Monroe, who smiled broadly at the use of formal name] -- are understanding and getting comfortable and able to help us. Not just help us; we had a big boost today when both of them were in there."
The feel-good outcome was hardly a certainty.
The Hoyas came out flat and hesitant, as if so preoccupied by all they were supposed to do that they forgot to do what comes naturally.
Rebounding was clearly a point of emphasis, and Summers, in particular, hit the boards hard. The result was the Hoyas' first dominant performance, in which they outrebounded the Friars, 41-29.
But the shooting woes that spelled their demise against Notre Dame remained a problem at the outset. The Hoyas' three starting guards -- senior Jessie Sapp, Freeman and Wright -- managed only three points among them through the first 12 minutes. Monroe didn't score a point until 1:04 remained in the period. And a rash of turnovers further curtailed their opportunities.
Georgetown was lucky to cut the deficit to 36-33 at the half.
The Hoyas came out strong in the second half.
A jumper by Monroe knotted the score at 37. Trailing 44-40, Georgetown bolted to the 21-2 run that changed the momentum to stay.
Said Marshon Brooks, who led the Friars with 18 points: "We hit a brick wall in the second half and couldn't score. They played good defense; got to credit them for that."
Freeman converted a four-point play after he was all but attacked by the Friars' Brian McKenzie while racing down the court on a fast break. The basket counted, and McKenzie was called for an intentional foul that resulted in two more easy points.
Georgetown led 66-50 with 7:52 remaining.
But Providence kept up the defensive pressure, forcing a rash of turnovers down the stretch. Between those squandered possessions and the Friars' offensive tenacity, what had looked like a rout ended up a three-point game, 76-73, with slightly more than one minute to play.
A monster dunk by Monroe provided the welcome cushion.