CINCINNATI, Feb. 21 -- Georgetown's 75-65 victory over Cincinnati on Wednesday night will not go down as one of the prettier performances in the 12th-ranked Hoyas' current winning streak. They didn't do a good job of handling the Bearcats' pressure, they were out-rebounded by the smaller team, and they missed free throws. But they got the result they wanted entering the final stretch of the regular season.
The Hoyas' 10th straight win -- their longest streak in Big East play since the 1986-87 season -- sets up a showdown for first place with No. 10 Pittsburgh on Saturday at Verizon Center. The Panthers -- who won the first meeting, 74-69, on Jan. 13 -- are the last team to beat the Hoyas (21-5, 11-2).
Junior Jeff Green scored a game-high 21 points Wednesday night and once again made key plays down the stretch. Guard Jonathan Wallace added 17 points and sophomore Jessie Sapp had 14, scoring off of several drives when the Hoyas' offense grew stagnant in the second half. Patrick Ewing Jr. blocked two three-point attempts in the final 2 1/2 minutes.
"That just shows our balance," Green said.
Roy Hibbert, a 7-foot-2 junior, dominated Cincinnati in the first meeting, almost scoring at will against the much smaller Bearcats and finishing with a career-high 26 points. This time, Hibbert took only four shots, making three, and finished with seven points. Afterward, Coach John Thompson III said that he probably should have played Hibbert (32 minutes) less, in order to negate some of the things that Cincinnati was doing.
"Last time, we weren't getting to him quick enough," Cincinnati Coach Mick Cronin said. "We got too spread out in our zone. One thing Hibbert does is score without dribbling the ball. . . . He knows what he's good at, and he just catches, turns and scores. Our guys did a good job of limiting his touches, and one of his baskets was a 17-footer."
The Bearcats (10-17, 1-12) came into the game sitting at the bottom of the Big East standings, losers of eight straight with virtually no shot at qualifying for the 12-team conference tournament. But that, according to Cronin, just meant that the Bearcats could play loose and fearless against the hot Hoyas.
And for the first 11 minutes, that's what Cincinnati did. The Bearcats made their first five three-pointers -- shades of the first meeting between the teams, when they shot 58 percent from beyond the arc -- and twice scored on layups off of cuts. After forward John Williamson drove straight at Hibbert and scored over the taller (by eight inches) player, Cincinnati led 24-14 with 9 minutes 30 seconds left until halftime.
But the Hoyas slowly fought their way back, and an unlikely shooter helped spark them. The Bearcats left guard Jeremiah Rivers alone on the perimeter and essentially dared him to shoot -- with good reason, considering that the freshman had made just one of the 11 three-pointers he had attempted this season (and that make came in November against Ball State). Rivers squared up and made the three-pointer to tie the score at 29, and then hit another one on Georgetown's next possession. Those two baskets sparked an 11-2 run to close the half, and the Hoyas led, 37-31, at the break.
"That was huge," Thompson said. "We were down, and they weren't guarding him at all, they were doubling Roy. He got two open looks and he banged them."
But the Hoyas weren't able to pull away from Cincinnati, mainly because of their own sloppiness against the full-court pressure. During one three-minute span, Georgetown committed five turnovers in its own back court -- four bad passes, and a 10-second violation. The Bearcats drew within three.
But whenever things got dicey, the Hoyas turned to Green.
"Jeff Green is a lottery pick," Cronin said. "He's got tremendous talent and I think Coach Thompson has done a tremendous job of harnessing his talent. He knows when to shoot, when to pass, when to drive."