- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Perhaps Georgetown should consider giving up South Florida for Lent.

For the third time in as many meetings since the lowly Bulls joined the Big East for the 2005-06 season, South Florida brought out the worst in the Hoyas. Surviving a classic letdown performance in a matchup between teams at the opposite ends of the league standings, No. 6 Georgetown rebounded from a poor first-half effort to down the Bulls 63-53 last night.

The Hoyas (19-2, 9-1 Big East) now have the rest of the week to prepare for Saturday night’s showdown at surging Louisville (17-6, 7-3).

Two seasons ago, Georgetown was victimized for South Florida’s lone win in the program’s first season in the Big East. For the better part of the first half last night, it looked as if the Hoyas might hand the Bulls (10-13, 1-9) their first Big East road win in three seasons.

“I don’t know that there is such a thing as a bad win,” Georgetown coach John Thompson III said after admitting he was not pleased with his team’s initial intensity level nor decision making. “But don’t read too much into my responses right now. Let’s not look at this as if we were playing against Sister Mary Joseph’s eighth grade team out there.

“That’s a very good team in the toughest conference in the country. … And they came in very fired up.”

Belying their station as the NCAA leaders in field goal percentage defense (.352), the Hoyas spent the first 12 minutes watching the Bulls toss in virtually uncontested shots. The Bulls twice led by as many as 10 points and sank 10 of their first 13 shots (76.9 percent) en route to claiming a 22-13 lead on a fall-away jumper from Orane Chin with 8:04 left before halftime.

But with South Florida threatening to saddle the squad with the most ignominious loss of Thompson’s tenure, the Hoyas turned to senior center Roy Hibbert (13 points, eight rebounds, six blocks).

With 6-foot-9, 270-pound South Florida pivot Kentrell Gransberry on his hip, Hibbert reeled off six straight points, sparking an 11-0 run that gave the Hoyas a lead they would never relinquish.

“I had taken Roy out because I thought he was flat early,” Thompson said. “And once he went back in, he had a little more energy, a little more pep in his step.”

If Hibbert started the comeback, the Georgetown combination of DaJuan Summers and Jessie Sapp finished it. Sapp again was efficient as the backcourt catalyst for the Georgetown offense, finishing with 11 points and five assists.

And just nine days removed from an ankle injury that forced him to the sidelines for last week’s rout of St. John’s, Summers (24 points, nine rebounds) began the night on a tear from 3-point range and eclipsed his previous career-high scoring performance (20 points) on a transition dunk and assist from Sapp that put the Hoyas ahead 51-39 with just 7:43 left.

“[Summers] was terrific on both ends of the floor,” Hibbert said. “He was really the heart and soul of this game right here. On any given night, it can be anyone [carrying the scoring load]. Sometimes it’s Sapp. Sometimes it’s DaJuan. Sometimes it’s me.

“We’re a more balanced team than we were last year, and I think that’s what gives this team the opportunity to be better than last year’s if things fall into place.”

Things aren’t likely to fall into place Saturday at Freedom Hall if Georgetown opens the game in the same lackadaisical manner it demonstrated last night.

Unlike the Bulls, who haven’t won a game in more than a month, Rick Pitino’s Cardinals are only a couple of paces behind the Hoyas in the league standings and coming off a road decimation of Marquette at Bradley Center.

“We’re focused,” Sapp said of the coming clash. “We know those guys are good. We know they have a great coach over there, and it’s going to be a tough game.”

Hoyas report

Last night at Verizon Center

SEEN AND HEARD

Entering a stretch run of Big East play, Georgetown is in good position to finish first in the conference. The Hoyas own multiple-game leads and potential head-to-head tiebreakers over Notre Dame and Connecticut. Louisville, whom the Hoyas play twice over the next several weeks, would seem to have the best chance of catching the Hoyas. But the Cardinals have by far the toughest remaining Big East schedule of the teams in contention with their remaining opponents 16 games over .500 in conference play. Georgetown’s are only one game over .500.

BY THE NUMBERS

.352 Field goal percentage defense for Georgetown entering the game, a figure that not only leads the nation but matches the NCAA record in the category set by Stanford in 2000. The NCAA first began tracking the statistic in 1978. Georgetown set its school record for field goal percentage defense in 1991 (.368).

Barker Davis

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide