After warning his team about the shooting prowess of Providence College guard Billy Donovan, Georgetown Coach John Thompson had only one question at halftime tonight, after Donovan had made six of nine shots.
"I asked them if they knew who he was," Thompson said.
The Hoyas' recognition improved immediately. Donovan, growing more tired by the minute against Georgetown's extended zone defense, missed all seven of his shots the second half. And the 12th-ranked Hoyas ran off with a 69-54 Big East victory before 10,561 in the Civic Center.
"If Billy Donovan doesn't have a great game for us, we're going to struggle," Providence Coach Rick Pitino said.
While Donovan struggled, Georgetown (16-3, 7-2 in the Big East) increased its 10-point halftime lead to 20 and survived a late attempt at a comeback by the Friars (9-10, 1-7).
One reason Georgetown didn't struggle was because David Wingate, the 6-foot-5 senior swingman, scored a game-high 20 points, making all seven shots he took from the field.
It probably wouldn't bother Wingate if he played all his games in the Civic Center. Last year against Providence here, he made eight of eight field goal attempts.
Georgetown center Ralph Dalton (nine points) made all three of his shots, guard Michael Jackson (12 points) hit five of seven, and forward Reggie Williams (13 points) made six of 12 as the Hoyas shot 61 percent from the field.
But the Hoyas seemed to think more of stopping Donovan the second half than anything else.
To begin with, Providence is a small team that doesn't have much of an inside game. When Pitino's best two inside players, 6-10 Jacek Duda and 6-9 Steve Wright, got in foul trouble, it hurt the Friars in two ways: It meant all the scoring responsibility was placed on the 6-2 Donovan, and Providence had no way of stopping Georgetown from going inside whenever it felt like it.
Georgetown's 2-3 zone kept extending further and further, and Donovan kept missing deep jumpers. The Hoyas also harassed Donovan, the Friars' leading scorer at 14 points per game, in the backcourt when possible.
"It was very important to make him do a lot of things, like handle the ball and hope he'd get tired," Thompson said.
Donovan kept missing. "He was tired more than anything else," Pitino said.
If that wasn't enough, Providence's front-court substitutes just aren't big enough or athletic enough to handle Georgetown. Even the Friars' starting big men had trouble: none scored in the first half.
"Wright became tentative," Pitino said. "He started staying on the ground and they just shot over him. We've just got a lack of athletic ability in our inside people; Wright's the only one who can dunk a ball."
Pitino wanted his team to look for inside baskets, but conceded later, "We couldn't see our inside people over them anyway. But we had (a front line of) 6-4, 6-4 and 6-4."
As a result, Georgetown's toughest competition for offensive rebounds on several plays often was another Georgetown player. The final rebound tally: Georgetown 38, Providence 20.
Even so, as Donovan pointed out, the game was fairly close the first 25 minutes. Providence trailed by 35-25 at the half, and Alan Roth hit a jumper that cut the deficit to 35-27 just after intermission.
But Georgetown broke it open in a flash. The fast-improving Grady Mateen -- he had six points and six rebounds tonight -- hit a strong jumper from the baseline, left-handed no less, to make it 37-27.
Providence's Harold Starks made a pair of foul shots. But Wingate drew the entire defense to him, jumped as if to take a shot, then fired a pass to Dalton, who jammed it. After a steal by Jackson, Dalton followed up a missed shot by Williams to make it 41-29.
Pitino could see what was happening and called time. He set up a play that got Wright a pair of free throws with 17:32 left, but the Friars wouldn't score again for 3 1/2 minutes. A jumper by Williams gave the Hoyas a 48-31 lead with less than 15 minutes to play.
The Friars did rally late but got no closer than 12 points. Donovan, with 12 points, was their only scorer in double figures.
Pitino said his team is playing beyond expectations and opponents are getting hip to Providence's scrappy, aggressive play now that the second half of the conference season is here.
"Teams are adjusting to us better now," he said, "and we don't have the athletic ability to compensate."
Georgetown, on the other hand, is starting to get better play in almost all areas, specifically up front, where it will be sorely needed over the next six weeks. Even though the opponent was only Providence, it's evident that Mateen, among others, has made great strides.
"His comfort level has improved," Thompson said. "I wouldn't want to have been a big man at Georgetown early this season, with the ghost of Patrick Ewing following me around . . . But Grady's starting to go up, get the rebounds and protect the ball."