Georgetown Hoyas play Providence after upset of Villanova

By Liz Clarke
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Georgetown's resounding victory over second-ranked Villanova settled any question about the Hoyas' potential heading into the home stretch of college basketball's regular season.

"We're as good as we want to be," said sophomore center Greg Monroe, following Saturday's 103-90 rout at Verizon Center. Few would dispute the claim, particularly after the Hoyas bolted to a 23-point lead in the first half.

Now, the only lingering doubt revolves around the Hoyas' ability to play as well in games with less hype, such as Tuesday's at unranked Providence (12-11, 4-7). Can Monroe and his teammates summon the "want to" to shine against less daunting opponents?

Georgetown Coach John Thompson III consistently reminds his squad that any Big East team can beat any other. And he harps on the fact that when the conference standings are tallied, no win is more precious than another, just as no loss is more costly.

Still, he has had mixed success driving that message home to the seventh-ranked Hoyas.

Georgetown (17-5, 7-4) has looked unbeatable in vanquishing top-10 opponents such as Duke and Villanova. But the Hoyas have looked average, at best, in losing to unranked Old Dominion, Marquette and South Florida.

Contrary to Thompson's script, which stresses that all opponents are equal, there is such a thing as a big game. When it comes to athletes' drive and intensity, the stature of an opponent matters. And the stakes of what are considered "big" college basketball games are underscored in a myriad ways: The size and star wattage of the crowd, the presence of NBA scouts, the caliber of courtside broadcasters and the electricity in the air.

All of that was present, in one form or another, for Georgetown's best performances this season: The victory over Duke and, one week later, the upset of Villanova.

None of it will be in play Tuesday at the Dunkin' Donuts Center, where Georgetown will face a Providence team that is on a three-game slide, having lost a close one at Cincinnati, been blown out at Syracuse and been edged by Marquette.

Asked how he guards against his players' repeating the emotional and physical lapse that followed their trouncing of Duke, Thompson said: "They have to have maturity and understanding. You talk about it. You let them know that every game is important. You let them know we're playing against a Big East team that, we've seen, is a good team."

Tuesday's game pits the sons of two coaching legends against one another: Thompson, 48, namesake of Georgetown's Hall of Fame Coach John Thompson; and Providence's Keno Davis, 37, the son of Tom Davis, whose 32-year tenure included successful tours at Boston College and Iowa.

In his debut season at Providence last year, Keno Davis led the Friars to their first winning record in the Big East (19-14 overall, 10-8 in the conference) since 2003-04. But the Friars have had considerable turnover since, returning just three scholarship players.

Providence boasts an experienced back court of senior point guard Sharaud Curry (15.5 points per game) and junior swingman Marshon Brooks (14.3). The Friars are less seasoned up front, where 6-6 sophomore forward Jamine Peterson, a redshirt last year, leads the squad with 18.7 points and 10.1 rebounds per game.

Georgetown showed impressive inside-outside balance against Villanova, with Monroe and guards Austin Freeman and Julian Clark combining for 68 points.

The Hoyas' team-first approach debunked the notion that they're little more than "the Big Three" of Monroe, Freeman and Chris Wright. Clark's 6-for-7 shooting from three-point range forced Villanova to rethink its defensive approach, and Julian Vaughn's inside presence and clutch free-throw shooting down the stretch (hitting seven of seven) helped keep the Hoyas' lead out of reach.

"The last game is irrelevant," Thompson said of the victory over Villanova. "It's about us. We're playing a very good Providence team Tuesday on their home court."

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