Georgetown held a block party last night at MCI Center. Coach Craig Esherick had bragged about the Hoyas being able to swat away opponents' shots almost routinely--and that's what happened during the decisive parts of an 83-76 victory over Bethune-Cookman that featured an inordinate number of fouls and turnovers.
Esherick volunteered a nonspecific critique of the officials, saying: "Art Hyland [coordinator of officials for the Big East Conference] will receive a tape . . . as quickly as is humanly possible. I may fly it up tonight."
There were 63 fouls in all, with the Hoyas (4-3) shooting 51 free throws. They also lost the ball an astonishing 32 times. But they also made 13 of 20 shots in the second half and had 11 blocked shots while allowing the game to get more than a wee bit dramatic near the end.
Among the unusual sights was Bethune-Cookman Coach Horace Broadnax, who played on Georgetown's 1984 national championship team, walking off the court for 22 seconds of game time with 15 minutes 45 seconds to play. His team was behind by 13 points when he left and 17 when he returned to the bench.
"That's something I've got to work on," he said. "Poor leadership on my part. I had to go out and gather my thoughts, not saying some things that I would regret tomorrow morning."
The Wildcats (2-3) later fell behind by 63-36 with 7:47 remaining. Then they started making three-pointers and forcing turnovers and pulled to 77-74 on a three-pointer by backup guard Larry Gilbert with 33 seconds left. But point guard Kevin Braswell and backup guard Demetrius Hunter each hit two free throws.
Center Ruben Boumtje Boumtje also had one of his six blocked shots down the stretch. Not fully recovered from a foot injury, he made 5 of 6 shots, 8 of 12 free throws and had 10 rebounds in 23 minutes.
That the competition was upgraded from Howard two days earlier was evident in the first several minutes, when Jameel Watkins had one of his shots blocked and he and Boumtje Boumtje had lots of trouble with double-teams after getting the ball close to the basket.
That sort of aggressive defense by Bethune-Cookman allowed the Hoyas to work on another problem, ballhandling. Other than Braswell, each Georgetown regular had more turnovers than assists coming into the game. After six turnovers last night, Watkins has 23 turnovers and just two assists for the season.
Also early on, open shots by Anthony Perry clanged off the rim. On back-to-back possessions, he had unguarded 15-footers from the right wing and missed both. But he recovered and finished with 16 points on just seven shots.
The defense, as always, was swarming and the major reason for the 15-8 lead midway through the opening period. The basket that provided that margin was a layup by Watkins on the only time Bethune-Cookman chose to single-cover him.
The Wildcats were even more erratic on offense than Georgetown in the first half, missing what few open shots they could manage against a defense that frequently pressed and almost always denied passes to the inside and to their leading scorer, guard Freddie Cole. Perry was the main reason Cole, who came into the game averaging 20 points, got just 10 shots in all and made two.
As the first half wore on, the Hoyas became more accurate on foul shots and pulled to a 34-20 lead on baskets that included a Boumtje Boumtje dunk off a quick pass from Perry and an open three by Perry when Braswell hit him with a cross-court pass.
After that 27-point lead, the Hoyas seemed to get rattled, and Bethune-Cookman shot exceptionally well. Still, Broadnax was not pleased.
"Coach [John] Thompson took over a Georgetown program probably not better than this program," he said. "We've got to go back and look in the mirror."