When he left the court at halftime after scoring 20 points against Georgetown last night, American University guard Frank Ross said he knew the fifth-ranked Hoyas would concentrate on stopping him in the second half.
Little did Ross or the crowd of 5,179 watching the intracity matchup of unbeaten teams at Capital Centre realize how completely the Hoyas would execute that task in their 83-59 victory. Faster than you can say double-team, trap and turnover, a close game became lopsided.
Leading, 39-36, early in the second half, the Hoyas outscored AU, 38-8, in the next 11 1/2 minutes, including an 18-2 streak in a little less than five minutes to start it. American had 21 possessions during those 11 1/2 minutes, which ended with Georgetown leading, 77-44, and failed to get a shot on 15 of them.
Ross finished with 23 points, high for the game, but got only two shots in the opening 15 minutes of the second half. His only points of the half came on a three-point play with two minutes remaining.
"I didn't get any (jersey) numbers," Ross said of the Georgetown defenders. "I guess I didn't realize there were that many guys coming at me."
John Thompson, whose 7-0 team will play at De Paul Saturday, fussed at halftime about the Hoyas letting Ross keep the Eagles (5-1) in the game.
"We didn't go after Frank enough," Thompson said. "You have to know who the person is. It was like an equal opportunity defense . . . We know him. There's no need for that to happen."
But it did, and American trailed by only 37-32 at halftime, even though the taller Hoyas were sometimes playing volleyball on the offensive backboards. For the game, the Hoyas turned 21 offensive rebounds into 21 points, including 12 for 11 points in the first half. AU had only four followup points.
With Ross getting double-teamed -- David Wingate (who led five Hoyas in double figures with 14 points for the game) and Horace Broadnax provided much of the harassment -- his teammates often were open. But the constant pressure of Georgetown's defense and the Eagles' lack of poise with Ross effectively taken out of the game doomed AU. Very quickly.
"I expected more from some other people than Frank Ross," said Eagles Coach Ed Tapscott. "You can't expect a 6-foot-2 guard to carry you for 40 minutes . . . But it was a typical scenario when you play these guys. You play to their level. They don't play to yours. We tailed off. They kept running and turned on the afterburners and said, 'Goodbye, AU.' "
It was 43-36 with a little more than 16 minutes to play when the Hoyas forced seven turnovers in eight AU possessions and took a 57-38 lead in little more than 3 1/2 minutes.
It started when Eagles forward Eric White tried to force a pass inside from the corner into a swarm of Hoyas. The ensuing turnover resulted in a fast-break layup by Broadnax. The Hoyas would score three more baskets before the Eagles got another shot off.
"You could feel it shift quickly," Ross said of the momentum.
After an American timeout, Broadnax stole a pass by Ross near midcourt and hit a long jumper. Then Ross, trying to pass cross court on the run, was intercepted by Broadnax, who fed Michael Jackson for another layup. Finally, AU point guard Mike Sampson committed an offensive foul, and Wingate scored still another layup for a 51-36 lead with 14:27 to play.
Terry Brent, a 6-6 freshman from Forestville High School, finally broke the drought for the Eagles. But three more American turnovers and three more Georgetown baskets made it 57-38 with 12:32 left.
When it was over, Tapscott marveled at the way Georgetown ran. "They run this year better than they have in the past," he said. "God, they can run. We were trying to get our press set up and they got the ball up the side so fast, we had to call it off.
"They play basketball the old-fashioned way. They earn it. We have to learn how to earn it."
One of two lines feeding power to the Capital Centre and part of the surrounding area was knocked out at 4:40 p.m., apparently by a tree knocking down a line in the area, according to a Capital Centre spokesman. The game started 17 minutes late after a Capital Centre crew switched to a spare transformer.