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Hoyas’ defense, run end AU’s chances

- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 30, 2007

The American revolution lasted exactly one week.

Restoring a semblance of order to the local hoops scene, No. 8 Georgetown rebounded from its disappointing loss at Memphis with a 78-51 throttling of American yesterday at Verizon Center.

The Hoyas (9-1) return to the floor tomorrow to close out their pre-Big East schedule against Fordham (6-5) before opening league play with consecutive road games at Rutgers (Saturday) and DePaul (Jan. 8).

In the first seven minutes of yesterday's game, the Eagles (7-6) looked capable of pulling off the Beltway's ultimate December double. Still brimming with confidence from its 67-59 victory at Maryland, American opened its upset bid against Georgetown by burying its first five 3-pointers to bolt to a 19-13 lead with 12:51 left in the first half.

Then the Hoyas decided to start playing defense.

Switching on screens to maintain pressure on American shooters Derrick Mercer (17 points) and Garrison Carr (16 points), Georgetown responded to American's six-point lead with a 50-15 explosion that lasted until the midpoint of the second half. During that decisive run, Mercer and Carr combined to score just nine points.

"The real story for us was the fact that their defense was stifling," American coach Jeff Jones said. "We got off to a good start. We made some shots. Then they really upped the energy level, and we didn't have an answer for that. They are bigger, stronger, faster, and they were making plays on every pass.

"To be honest, there were a couple of times when we had some nice baskets, in the midpoint of the first half, where we ended up with the basket, but there was a potential steal they just missed. I think the constant pressure ... the constant pushing out, trying to take away the shots, daring us to drive the basketball, wore us down."

Georgetown's frenetic defense also fed the team's transition offense, which looked better than it has all season. In stark contrast to their halting effort at Memphis, the Hoyas were efficient against the Eagles in both their halfcourt and up-tempo sets.

The 50-15 run ended with 9:04 left in the game, finishing with a 17-0 spurt that pushed the Hoyas' field goal percentage as high as 74.2 percent before coach John Thompson III dipped deeply into his bench.

Though it was a team effort, the play of underclassmen DaJuan Summers (16 points) and Chris Wright (13 points, four assists) stood out.

Summers awed in his role as the team's most imposing transition finisher. The 6-foot-8 sophomore threw down a handful of stanchion-swaying jams on the break, as well as delivering the day's best defensive play with a diving steal that led to a transition basket.

Wright, meanwhile, got his hands on more American passes than most players on the AU roster.

"Chris brings an energy that we need," Thompson said. "He's so valuable in so many areas of the game. I think he's starting to get an appreciation for how good of a defender he is and how he can help his teammates."

Despite their dominance, the Hoyas' rebounding woes continued. Georgetown posted a plus-two margin (28-26) against the much smaller Eagles, and its starting frontcourt of Summers, Roy Hibbert (14 points) and Patrick Ewing Jr. combined for three rebounds.

"Our rebounding is an issue," Thompson said. "For us to win this year we have to do a better job of limiting our opponents to one shot. And just as important with this group is getting second shots for us."

Hoyas report

Yesterday at Verizon Center

SEEN AND HEARD

For the first time in his four-year career, Georgetown center Roy Hibbert shed his undershirt for a game.

"I just decided to change my whole attitude," Hibbert said. "I decided maybe my T-shirt was making me sweat and holding me back."

BY THE NUMBERS

74.2 Percent shooting for Georgetown with 10:50 left in the second half. The Hoyas might have threatened the school record (74.4 percent vs. Oregon State in 1982) had John Thompson III not cleared his bench during the game's final minutes.

BIG RETURN

Georgetown's matchup with American marked a homecoming of sorts for American center Cornelio Guibunda, who spent his freshman season at Georgetown (2004-05) before transferring to AU. The 6-9 junior scored four points yesterday, nearly matching his career total (six points) for the Hoyas.

Barker Davis