- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 15, 2008

NEW YORK — Talk about a royal rebound for Roy Hibbert.

From disappearing act to absolute dominance, Georgetown senior Roy Hibbert followed his worst game of the season with his best, pouring in 25 points and corralling 13 rebounds — both career highs — last night to carry the Hoyas to a 72-55 throttling of West Virginia in the Big East tournament semifinals at Madison Square Garden.

The victory likely cements Georgetown’s claim to a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament and sets up a title game rematch tonight between the Hoyas (27-4) and Pittsburgh (25-9), whom Georgetown pasted 65-42 in last season’s finale.

Last night’s snapshot moment came with just more than five minutes left and the Hoyas at the tail end of a 16-0 run that turned a tenuous, four-point game at the 11:06 mark into a 20-point laugher.

On the game-defining play, Hibbert collected the ball on the high block, spun past slow-footed defender Jamie Smalligan and drew a weakside help foul from Joe Alexander as he tossed in a layup for his final bucket of the night.

As the sellout crowd erupted around him, the 7-foot-2, 275-pound center pounded his chest, stared out into the stands in the world’s most famous arena and roared. What did he scream?

“I was just saying, ‘I’m a monster right now,’ ” Hibbert said. “ ’I’m a monster. Be afraid.’ ”

One seat to his right on the postgame interview dais, Georgetown coach John Thompson III practically fell out of his chair at the out-of-character revelation from his soft-spoken star. Thompson even reached his hand out and placed it on Hibbert’s forehead in a mock gesture of checking his temperature to make sure the center wasn’t delirious.

He was just a little angry and a lot humiliated by a quarterfinal performance against Villanova in which he fouled out in 14 minutes and was held scoreless for the first time all season.

“Oh, yeah, he was seriously amped,” Georgetown forward Patrick Ewing Jr. said of Hibbert’s mood before the game. “He was even physical in warmups. I could see it in his eyes. The big fella just wasn’t going to let us lose tonight. We just had to get him the ball and get out of his way.”

A day after Villanova surrounded Hibbert with three defenders, West Virginia (24-10) employed the unusual strategy of trying to defend him one-on-one.

“They decided to guard him man-to-man,” Thompson said. “I don’t know what I should say publicly about that. … Suffice it to say, it was a different look.”

And, as Thompson implied and history supports, a very bad one for West Virginia. Over the last two seasons, only two teams who have employed predominantly a man-to-man defense against the Hoyas have celebrated victories (at Duke and at Pittsburgh in 2007).

Checked by the slow Smalligan (7-0, 240 pounds) or the undersized Alexander (6-8, 230 pounds), Hibbert made 12 of his 17 shots and the Hoyas trailed only once (4-3) en route to dispatching the Mountaineers, who perhaps wilted down the stretch because of the fatigue of playing on a third consecutive day.

“I wouldn’t say I was angry about the Villanova game, but I definitely didn’t come out with the intensity that I needed against them,” Hibbert said. “I made poor decisions, committed some silly fouls and wasn’t as focused as I needed to be. I was determined not to let that happen again.”

Tonight Hibbert and the Hoyas have a chance to avenge another poor performance, as they face a Pittsburgh team that handed them their worst conference loss of the season on Jan. 14 at Petersen Events Center.

Hoyas report

Last night at Madison Square Garden in New York

SEEN AND HEARD

The new Nike commercial featuring Georgetown coach John Thompson III and clips from McDonough Gymnasium and the healy clock tower was filmed using Howard players to avoid running afoul of NCAA rules.

Given the number of comments about Georgetown’s good fortune this season, there’s no coincidence that the tagline for the spot is “There are no Cinderellas.” As the commercial insinuates, fortune and success are often by-products of hard work.

Quipped Thompson: “I think they edited my part too much. I think I deserved more air time.”

BY THE NUMBERS

5

Field goals for West Virginia’s Joe Alexander on 16 attempts. A night after dropping a career-high 34 points on Connecticut, the 6-foot-8 forward scored 10 points thanks to the defensive prowess of Georgetown forwards Patrick Ewing Jr. and DaJuan Summers.

16-0

Game-deciding Georgetown run during a 7:52 stretch of the second half.

— Barker Davis

Today’s game

No. 9 GEORGETOWN (27-4) vs. PITTSBURGH (25-9)

Big East tournament final

When: 9 p.m.

Where: Madison Square Garden, New York

TV/radio: ESPN, AM-570, AM-730, FM-92.7, FM-94.3

Outlook: The Hoyas and Panthers met once in the regular season, with Pittsburgh winning 69-60 at home Jan. 14. Jonathan Wallace scored 14 points to lead Georgetown, which will try to claim its second straight Big East tournament title to go with back-to-back regular-season titles.

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