By Liz Clarke
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
For long, scoreless stretches in Georgetown's offensively challenged home opener against Temple, the basketball was almost painful to watch.
And when the final statistics were tallied, the ugliness that had been on display at Verizon Center was spelled out in stark relief -- from the Hoyas' 16 turnovers to their 3-of-18 shooting from three-point range.
But in this game, what truly mattered resided in the heart.
Unlike last season, in which Georgetown frittered away so many close games with lackluster effort in the waning minutes, the Hoyas stormed back from a six-point deficit Tuesday to deliver a 46-45 victory before a raucous late-afternoon crowd and a national TV audience.
The game was capped by a thrilling finish, with sophomore center Greg Monroe scoring the winning layup with 6.5 seconds remaining.
Afterward, Monroe said that he felt a summer of hard work -- combined with the coaching staff's emphasis on "finishing games" -- had helped this year's team turn a critical corner.
"We definitely were in these type of situations last year," Monroe said. "I think with the growth of this team, we're definitely not going to lose these games this year."
After cautioning that the Hoyas were still a work in progress, Coach John Thompson III couldn't hide his satisfaction in his players' resilience down the stretch.
"The momentum was all with them [in the second half]," Thompson said. "For us to be able to maintain our poise and composure -- whether it was ugly or not -- that's a good feeling."
Monroe, guarded brilliantly throughout the game by Temple's Lavoy Allen, was held to 11 points on 4-of-10 shooting but labored hard to contribute otherwise, grabbing a team-high nine rebounds and three assists.
And his late-game heroics revealed assertiveness that Georgetown fans have longed to see since Monroe's arrival on the Hilltop.
Junior guard Chris Wright led the 19th-ranked Hoyas with 15 points, and Austin Freeman added 10.
A sparse crowd was on hand when the teams trotted on court shortly before 4 p.m., the tip-off dictated by ESPN's "24 Hours of College Basketball." But the stands swelled after the workday ended.
By then, the Hoyas (2-0) were in a battle, having squandered a 12-point lead, and badly needed the support.
Neither team could find the basket in the early going, with the Hoyas leading 4-2 after more than eight minutes of play. And both were abysmal from three-point range, combining to miss their first 15 attempts from beyond the arc.
Temple's shooting woes (1 of 11 at the outset) were largely due to stout defense by Georgetown. The Hoyas did a terrific job on Ryan Brooks, who scored 23 points in the Owls' season-opening victory at Delaware but managed just six points on 2-of-14 shooting Tuesday.
Temple (1-1) fared better in the second half and took its first lead, 32-31, with 12:13 to play.
Suddenly, the Owls' Lavoy Allen (12 points, 14 rebounds) was an unstoppable force on the boards and from the floor.
With just under seven minutes remaining, Temple's Brooks buried a three-pointer to put the Owls up, 39-33.
Georgetown's Jason Clark (8 points, 7 rebounds) swished the three-pointer to knot the score at 39.
And Monroe followed with a three-point play to reclaim the lead for Georgetown, 42-39.
The lead with short-lived, with Temple reeling off five unanswered points.
With two minutes remaining, Temple led, 45-44.
Wright committed a critical turnover bringing the ball up court. But Temple squandered the possession that followed, and Thompson called a timeout with 55 seconds remaining, still trailing by 1.
Wright missed from beyond the arc as the shot clock expired.
And a Georgetown foul sent Temple to the line. Yet another missed free throws created one last Hoya possession.
This time they got the ball to Monroe, who won it.
Note: Freshman Jerrelle Benimon re-injured a sprained left ankle during practice last week, Thompson said, and watched from the bench, his foot in a protective boot.