- The Washington Times - Monday, March 5, 2001

GEORGETOWN 79, NOTRE DAME 72

SOUTH BEND, Ind. Georgetown picked the perfect game to author its regular-season opus.
The 21st-ranked Hoyas dominated No. 13 Notre Dame inside yesterday, posting a 79-72 victory over the Irish to secure a first-round bye in this week's Big East tournament.
The Hoyas (23-6, 10-6) finished conference play tied with Syracuse for second place in the West division. But thanks to the Hoyas' superior record within the division (9-3), Georgetown earned the No. 2 seed in the West for the league tournament, which starts Wednesday at Madison Square Garden. The Hoyas will meet the winner of the St. John's-Seton Hall opener Thursday at 2 p.m. in the event's second round.
Coach Craig Esherick and his charges understood the stakes when they stepped onto the floor at the Joyce Center yesterday. Beat West division champion Notre Dame (19-8, 11-5) in front of its sellout senior day crowd (11,418) and earn a Big East bye and some serious respect from the NCAA tournament selection committee. Lose and face a first-round Big East game against NCAA-desperate Connecticut, drop out of the AP rankings and finish the regular season without a road victory over a team headed to the big bracket.
And the Hoyas might have been aware of the long odds they were facing. Led by All-American forward Troy Murphy, Notre Dame entered the game with only one home loss in the league all season.
But the bunch from the Hilltop obviously didn't care. By the time Murphy and his mates straggled off the court in a black and blue daze late yesterday afternoon, the Hoyas had made one thing perfectly clear: The lair might belong to Notre Dame, but the lane belonged to Georgetown.
Totally overshadowing Notre Dame's likely all-conference duo of Murphy and center Ryan Humphrey, Georgetown's pivot pounders Ruben Boumtje Boumtje and Mike Sweetney combined for 35 points, 18 rebounds and six blocks, notching their best performance as a pair all season and carrying the Hoyas to victory.
"You can't say enough about those guys," Georgetown junior point guard Kevin Braswell said of the team's inside tandem. "I've been talking about Mike all season, but Ruben's definitely come around since the Syracuse game. He's been playing so well lately. And once you get both of them rolling, it's easy for me."
Sweetney (19 points, nine rebounds, three blocks), Boumtje Boumtje (16 points, nine rebounds, three blocks, three steals) and reserve forward Lee Scruggs (11 points) kept the Hoyas afloat early. With Scruggs doing his damage from behind the 3-point arc, the trio scored all but eight of Georgetown's first-half points as the Hoyas scratched out a 37-34 halftime lead.
And after intermission, Boumtje Boumtje and Sweetney claimed control inside, helping the Hoyas to a commanding 53-36 rebounding edge, drawing double teams that earned open looks for their teammates and frustrating Murphy and Humphrey into submission. Humphrey picked up his fourth foul with 12:39 to play, watched much of the second-half action from the bench and finished with just five points before fouling out. And Murphy, who made three of his first four shots, scored just 13 points on 5-for-17 shooting over the game's final 35 minutes and also fouled out in what might have been his final home game.
"We did a good job with Murphy on defense, and he's the key to stopping their team," said Boumtje Boumtje, who failed to score and collected just one rebound in Georgetown's 78-71 loss to the Irish at MCI Center Jan. 27. "It could be [my best performance at Georgetown]. I think I played pretty well, especially on defense."
Sweetney and Boumtje Boumtje staked the Hoyas to a double-digit lead midway through the second half, and then backcourt mates Braswell and Hunter (13 points) helped the Hoyas hold on down the stretch.
When the Irish clawed within 56-50 with 8:39 remaining courtesy of a 10-0 run sparked by the marksmanship of swingman David Graves (17 points), Hunter drilled back-to-back 3-pointers to give Georgetown a working margin once again. And Braswell (12 points, 10 assists) dropped the most important shot of the afternoon for Georgetown, nailing a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 1:34 remaining to put the Hoyas ahead 69-61 and effectively ice the game.
"Our focus was on getting the bye," Sweetney said. "And this was really important because we accomplished that and we ended the season by beating two ranked teams. Notre Dame and Syracuse are both very good, and I think beating those teams gives us a good name going into the postseason."


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