Defense has been so much of a given for so long at Georgetown that Coach Craig Esherick did not volunteer anything about holding Houston scoreless for most of the final four minutes of the Hoyas' 83-75 victory yesterday at MCI Center. What he emphasized were a few other basics that have not always gone well near the end, among them passing and shooting.
"For the second straight game, we closed offensively," Esherick said. "We built on the lead, got some good shots. And if we didn't make the shots we got big offensive rebounds."
The most important of those shots were an open three-pointer from the right wing by point guard Kevin Braswell and an open 17-footer from the right baseline by senior forward Rhese Gibson that gave the Hoyas a five-point lead with 1 minute 29 seconds left. Gibson usually is on the bench near the end of games, and Esherick said his shot was "the biggest of his career."
Gibson was pleased, but not overwhelmed, that the one shot he took during his nine minutes of action went in.
"Just focus on the rim, make the shot," Gibson said. "No big deal. My time to step up."
The bigger deal was how the Hoyas (6-3) handled the relatively passive zone defense Houston Coach Clyde Drexler had to use in the last several minutes because of foul problems to his undermanned squad. The Hoyas might not win a battle of attrition in the return game next year because Drexler has signed two top prospects, but they did yesterday before 7,198 fans in pushing Esherick's career record to 14-13.
Earlier, Houston (5-5) had forced Georgetown into numerous turnovers and forced shots with a variety of traps and other aggressive moves. That was not possible down the stretch--and the patient Hoyas worked the ball well enough to get extremely open shots.
Frequently, center Ruben Boumtje Boumtje was able to draw the defense toward him after receiving a pass near the free throw line and find open teammates.
"The opposite always was open," said junior guard Anthony Perry, meaning the side away from the ball. "That was me."
Perry converted two quick cross-court passes into open three-pointers that gave the Hoyas a one-point lead midway through the second half, and freshman forward Victor Samnick (17 points, six rebounds in his first career start) later hit a pair of 18-footers from the left baseline.
Perry's rebound of Boumtje Boumtje's miss on a clear shot near the foul line set up Gibson's shot that clinched the win for the Hoyas.
"I was thinking pass so much," Boumtje Boumtje said, "I forgot about shooting."
With guard Gee Gervin (24 points on 14 shots) back after being on the bench with four fouls for about six minutes, the Cougars pulled into a 75-75 tie on a three-point shot by forward Kenny Younger with 3:46 left.
That was the final Houston point, as the Hoyas forced a turnover, Boumtje Boumtje had a blocked shot and Chad Hendrick missed an open shot during that stretch. Also, Gervin faked so hard to get two Hoyas off their feet on what would have been a three-point effort with 17 seconds remaining, he also left the floor for a turnover.
When asked about shutting out Houston, Esherick smiled and said, "That's what we're trying to do."
Esherick slowed the tempo for most of the final 11 minutes, he said, because that would create better shots and fewer turnovers. The Hoyas had 23 turnovers, about their average. Drexler was grateful for anything that would run time off the clock, especially with Gervin on the bench for so long.
"That really helped us," Drexler said. "For a minute, I was really shocked. I wasn't going to tell 'em about it. But you never question anything that works."
Esherick said Gibson was in the game late because his free throw percentage (77.8) is so high, because he plays smart defense and because he inbounds the ball well. Seven Hoyas played at least 12 minutes, and that also helped.
"We were very fresh at the end," Esherick said.
Hoyas Notes: Georgetown expects 6-foot-10 Lee Scruggs, a transfer from Dayton Beach (Fla.) Community College, to be able to practice with the team by Dec. 26. The next game is Dec. 30 at home against Coastal Carolina.