- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 7, 2007

It has been more than a month since the Georgetown basketball team last lost.

If the Hoyas continue to play as they did yesterday against No. 17 Notre Dame, it will be some time before they stumble again.

With Jeff Green dominating the first half and Roy Hibbert the second, the Hoyas clamped down on the Fighting Irish in a 66-48 thrashing at Verizon Center to open Big East play.

While the Hoyas’ offense was efficient when necessary, it was their play on the other end that was especially impressive. Georgetown (11-3, 1-0 Big East) darted to an 18-4 lead in the opening minutes, then suffocated the Irish (13-2, 1-1) deep into the second half in perhaps its best game of the season.

“I think it has been,” said Hibbert, who scored a game-high 18 points. “They’re a top-25 team and they’re the hardest opponent we’ve played so far, and right off the bat we came out planning to stop them and get buckets.”

Green, who had 13 of his 15 points in the first half, was responsible for the strong start, but it was the 7-foot-2 Hibbert who finished off the Irish after Notre Dame pulled within 50-35.

The junior started his run with a hook, then added a second-chance layup the next time down the floor.

Two possessions later, Hibbert heeded the crowd’s exhortation of “C’mon, Roy” as he paused eight feet from the basket and then cruised in for a layup. He delivered another layup moments later to make it 60-35.

Hibbert shot 8-for-9 in the game and scored 12 points after the break.

“We made shots and they extended out on us and so we were able to go in there,” coach John Thompson III said. “We did a good job of throwing in later in the possession instead of just coming down and trying to throw it in.”

Both teams were without key parts of their rotation from the first two months of the season. Georgetown played without forward Marc Egerson, who withdrew from school Thursday. Notre Dame, meanwhile, was without point guard Kyle McAlarney, who missed his third straight game as part of an indefinite suspension after his arrest for marijuana possession.

McAlarney’s absence clearly hurt more.

Georgetown pestered the Irish all over the court and rarely surrendered an open look. Freshman Tory Jackson occasionally found Green or Hibbert towering over him as he tried to work it inside. He rarely succeeded as the Irish stumbled to their lowest offensive output ever in a Big East game.

“The defensive intensity was very, very good. I cannot understate that,” Thompson said. “I don’t just mean rah-rah, bump your chest, but it was intelligent. There was communication and understanding what they were trying to accomplish relative to how we had to stop that.”

The Irish averaged 88 points a game and had won 12 straight before yesterday, and much of their success came from potent perimeter shooting and the ability of their big men to extend defenses outside to set up easy layups. Neither developed against the Hoyas.

Notre Dame missed 13 of its first 15 attempts from the field and wound up shooting 30.8 percent overall and 4-for-22 from 3-point range. Meanwhile, forwards Rob Kurz, Luke Zeller and Luke Harangody combined for only 14 points on 2-for-11 shooting, and their inability to create open looks visibly flustered them.

“That was our plan. We had to keep frustrating them,” Green said. “We knew coming in they were a great 3-point shooting team. That’s mostly what they wanted to do, and we just had to contain that. We knew that would frustrate them throughout the whole game.”

It was a promising start to conference play for the Hoyas, who have won seven straight since back-to-back losses to Oregon and Duke. Tomorrow’s meeting with Villanova — as well as Saturday’s visit to No. 10 Pittsburgh — will tell more about a team whose passing and shooting both have progressed demonstrably in recent weeks.

Both were apparent yesterday, and even Thompson conceded it was probably the Hoyas’ finest performance of the season.

“We played well today,” Thompson said. “At both ends of the floor, we played very well.”

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