Oxon Hill All-Met center Michael Sweetney had a chance to look around and check out MCI Center, his future home court, as he sat on the bench for the final 3 1/2 minutes of the first quarter of the Clippers' 63-43 victory over No. 19 Gonzaga last night.
Sweetney, who will play at MCI Center as a member of the Georgetown basketball team next season, picked up two quick fouls in the second game of the DeMatha Invitational. So the 6-foot-9 center sat on the bench for the latter part of the first quarter and had a chance to think.
"I was thinking about how I hoped that I wasn't letting my team down," Sweetney said. "I wanted to go out and go real hard and do what I could to help us win the game."
Sweetney returned with a vengeance, and ended up with 17 points, 12 rebounds and 7 blocked shots for No. 4 Oxon Hill (10-2). He was named the game's most valuable player.
Gonzaga (14-6), which shot 30 percent from the floor and 46.7 percent from the free throw line, had its four-game winning streak snapped. Junior guard Michael Orfini led the young Eagles with 11 points, and 6-6 senior forward Howard Blue added 10 points and 17 rebounds.
The Eagles led 14-13 after the first quarter. Sweetney attempted two shots in the first five minutes; he made one after spinning out of a triple-team and had the other shot blocked by Blue.
"Sometimes the best remedy is to put him on the bench, because Mike hates to not play," Oxon Hill Coach Billy Lanier said. "I thought he came out and really played hard in the second quarter."
Sweetney was back on the floor at the start of the second quarter, and Oxon Hill went inside to him immediately. He scored with Blue on his hip to give the Clippers a 15-14 lead, and Oxon Hill never trailed after that, building a 36-25 halftime lead.
"We were playing behind [Sweetney], and that's something that we didn't want to happen," said Gonzaga Coach Dick Myers, who has four juniors, two sophomores and one freshman on his team. "When you turn the ball over as much as we did [nine turnovers in the second quarter], you know that [Sweetney is] going to get his hands on the ball and take shots."
In the second quarter, Sweetney made 5 of 6 shots and 1 of 2 free throws. He also had two assists and three blocked shots.
"He stepped it up big time," Oxon Hill senior point guard Richard Little said. "We were telling him that he needed to--he wasn't playing to his capabilities. He doesn't like to tell us [that he wants the ball], so I try to tell him that he needs to tell us if he wants it."
Oxon Hill's defense and depth were as instrumental as Sweetney's presence inside. The Clippers forced 21 turnovers (17 in the first half). Eight Oxon Hill players scored, led by Sweetney and junior guard Lamar Butler Jr., who also had 17 points. Little and junior guard Philip Goss each had four assists.
"A lot of the time, the stars get the publicity, and deservedly so," Lanier said. "But if we don't have Richard, we don't play well because he distributes the ball. If Lamar or Phil are not on the floor, then Mike isn't going to get his touches, because those two open up the floor with their shooting."