- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 13, 2008

In a game in which Georgetown’s usual 3-point shooters struggled, 7-foot-2 center Roy Hibbert stepped out to sink Connecticut.

With the game tied and less than six seconds left, Hibbert found himself unchecked by the Huskies’ sagging defense at the top of the key. Instead of panicking, the senior calmly squared up from behind the 3-point arc and hit the biggest shot of his career.

Hibbert’s shot swished through the hoop to give No. 7 Georgetown a 72-69 victory and send the sellout crowd of 20,035 at Verizon Center into a den of ecstasy rivaling the eruption after Georgetown’s upset of No. 1 Duke in 2006.

“Primarily, I’m in the paint. But if the opportunity is there [from the perimeter], I’ll take it,” said Hibbert, who had 20 points and eight rebounds. “I came back to Georgetown to learn some stuff and help this team win games. I’m a senior now and a leader. Last season, I wouldn’t have taken that shot. This year, I feel comfortable with it, so I took it. …

“It was a special moment for me personally, probably my favorite play since I’ve been here. But what really makes it special is it gave us a comeback win against a Big East rival.”

Hibbert’s shot cemented an 11-2 run in the final 3:05 that lifted the Hoyas (13-1, 3-0 Big East) out of a 67-61 hole and left them alone atop the Big East standings as the only unbeaten team in league play. That unblemished mark will be put to the test as the Hoyas travel to No. 20 Pittsburgh (14-2, 2-1) tomorrow.

Connecticut assistant coach George Blaney, standing in for ailing Hall of Fame coach Jim Calhoun yesterday, claimed he would “like to see [Hibbert] take that shot a few more times.”

He might get the chance. Hibbert made an identical shot against Fordham two weeks ago. After that game, Georgetown’s Jon Wallace — the program’s all-time leader in 3-pointers — said Hibbert might be among the team’s most accurate long-range shooters in post-practice shootarounds.

Since Hibbert is now a perfect 2-for-2 from 3-point range in his college career, opposing teams should probably at least feign defending him from there. Yesterday, 7-3 Connecticut center Hasheem Thabeet wasn’t in the same area code as Hibbert on the game’s deciding play.

The Hoyas tried to run either Wallace or DaJuan Summers (12 points) off a Hibbert screen at the top of the circle. But when Thabeet never hedged, Hibbert called his own number.

“He made a basketball decision,” Georgetown coach John Thompson III said. “He knows he can make that shot. That is not a fluke. It’s not a shocker. It’s not a once-in-a-lifetime thing that Roy makes that shot. If you leave him open, he has showed every day in practice and a few times this year that if you’re not going to play him, he can make that shot.”

Hibbert’s heroics ended a Big East struggle in which the Hoyas struggled to contain the backcourt speed and transition stylings of the Huskies (11-4, 2-2) and Connecticut faltered against the Hoyas’ frontcourt of Hibbert, Summers and Patrick Ewing Jr. (14 points, five rebounds).

Powered by the quickness of junior point guard A.J. Price (17 points, nine assists) and a torrid shooting performance from reserve guard Doug Wiggins (15 points), the Huskies surged ahead 61-56 on a 7-0 run with 7:26 left.

The teams exchanged baskets in the next several minutes, leaving the Huskies ahead 67-61 with just more than 3:00 left and Georgetown perimeter players Wallace (1-for-7 from 3-point range) and Jessie Sapp (1-for-4) uncharacteristically misfiring from behind the arc, largely on uncontested looks.

But with Connecticut collapsed on Hibbert inside and daring Georgetown to shoot, freshman guard Austin Freeman broke the drought from deep with a 3-pointer, cutting the lead to 67-64.

After a Connecticut turnover, Sapp made another 3 to tie the game with 2:38 left. Dominated once again by Hibbert, Thabeet (seven points, two rebounds) pulled Connecticut ahead on a pair of free throws with 1:55 remaining. But those were the Huskies’ only points of the final four minutes.

Ewing tied the game on a goaltending call with 1:44 remaining. And then Wiggins missed his first shot of the game with 40 seconds left to set up Hibbert’s game-winner.

Hoyas report

Yesterday at Verizon Center

SEEN AND HEARD

Freshman guard Chris Wright was held out of his third consecutive game after aggravating his sprained right ankle in Friday’s practice. Coach John Thompson III was not optimistic about the freshman’s chances of playing in tomorrow’s game at Pittsburgh. …

Georgetown’s mascot broke out a new costume for yesterday’s game. On the positive side, the new uniform features a return to the old menacing facial expression, as well as some solid jowls and long claws. On the negative, the new Jack sports an almost comical beanie cap.

BY THE NUMBERS

5Offensive rebounds yielded by Georgetown’s defense yesterday. After giving up an average of 17.2 offensive rebounds in their previous five games, the Hoyas bested one of the nation’s best rebounding teams 32-29 — 17 fewer than Connecticut’s season average.

Barker Davis

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