The smiles for Georgetown after its first three Big East Conference games had been nonexistent. And the ones in the locker room after yesterday's 65-61 conference victory over Miami at MCI Center seemed forced at times, suggesting relief more than immense satisfaction.
"We all needed a victory," Coach Craig Esherick said. "I cannot say enough about the effort."
Evidence of that effort was an astonishing 32 offensive rebounds. But the Hoyas (9-6, 1-3 Big East) never had been outworked during their three-game losing streak. They survived yesterday, in large part, because center Ruben Boumtje Boumtje and shooting guard Anthony Perry recovered from erratic play to score the game's final five points and because newcomer Lee Scruggs provided almost instant offense.
The overall view for Georgetown combined the sensational and the ugly. The Hoyas scored 23 points off their offensive rebounds, and the 6-foot-11 Scruggs had 16 points during 13 minutes in the first half. But they committed 21 turnovers, and 12 of their shots were blocked. Also, they shot 27 percent during the second half.
Boumtje Boumtje, the Hoyas' leading rebounder, played less than half the game, some of it because of early foul problems, and had fewer rebounds than four teammates. Perry remained in a slump that began even before league play, missing 6 of 7 shots and committing four turnovers.
With the game on the line, however, both were exceptional. Boumtje Boumtje's layup and foul shot with 36.6 seconds left gave the Hoyas the lead for good, 63-61, and Perry's two free throws made it a two-possession game with 12.5 seconds remaining.
The Hoyas led almost the entire second half, but Miami gained a 61-60 lead on a short jumper by Elton Tyler (18 points on 9-for-12 shooting, 4 blocked shots) with 59 seconds left.
Boumtje Boumtje's momentum-turning three points on the next possession were made possible by a beautiful pass from senior Rhese Gibson on a set play. From near the free throw line, Gibson saw that Boumtje Boumtje had the Miami defender on his right hip and threw a bounce pass that allowed Boumtje Boumtje to catch the ball, turn quickly to his left and drop the ball in while being hit by John Salmons.
"It was something we needed to get going," Gibson said. "I put the ball where he could catch it--and he did the rest."
"Perfect," Boumtje Boumtje said. "Just like in practice."
Perry twice was terrific on Miami's next possession. His defense forced Johnny Hemsley (5-for-13 shooting) to try a long three-pointer from the left wing, and the rebound came directly to him. Vernon Jennings hit Perry hard, and the reaction by both teams was strong enough for Esherick to rush onto the court and restore order.
Perry said he was confident on the free throw line.
"Coach stressed being better on free throws," he said, referring to the Hoyas going just 6 for 15 from the line late in a loss to St. John's five days earlier. "The only thing on my mind was making them."
The first was as pure as he could have hoped. The second grazed the front of the rim, but also dropped through.
Miami (9-7, 2-2) had a couple of tip-in chances after a miss by Jennings, but the ball eventually came flying Georgetown's way, and the final two seconds ticked off before anyone could recover it. Freshmen Victor Samnick and Courtland Freeman jumped into each other's arms, and there was a celebratory team hug that included Esherick.
Scruggs had played a total of only 10 minutes in the previous Big East games after transferring from Daytona Beach (Fla.) Community College in late December. He was 6 for 7 in the first half, effective with moves inside and on short turnarounds. However, he also was the reason Tyler got some very easy baskets.
"Lee arrived in awful condition," Esherick said of Scruggs's limited minutes earlier, "and I'm more comfortable that he's more comfortable with what we're trying to do."
Miami had beaten the Hoyas in the teams' past six regular season games, and Hurricanes Coach Leonard Hamilton was upset with how Georgetown dominated the rebounding.
"That's something in the scouting report of every team that's ever played Georgetown," he said. "I've got to compliment them for going to the boards, but we deserve some criticism because we knew coming in that's what they would do. . . . They do not need any charity."