Tuesday, January 6, 2004

Boston College forward Craig Smith brought Georgetown back to earth last night, handing the Hoyas their first loss of the season with a powerful one-man performance.

After being shut down in the first half, Smith erupted down the stretch to score 19 of his game-high 24 points in the final 9:07 and lead BC to a 72-64 victory before 7,735 at MCI Center.

Smith went 9-for-9 in the second half and finished with his sixth double-double of the season with 12 rebounds. In the second half, Smith was a man among boys.

“He was getting better position and posting up real low, and they were doing a better job of getting him the ball,” Georgetown center Courtland Freeman said. “He’s a good player, he uses his body real well and we let him get going.”

Georgetown (10-1, 1-1 Big East) can’t expect to win games when its top two scorers take the night off. Gerald Riley and Brandon Bowman combined to shoot seven of 27 from the field for 20 points. Coming into the game, Georgetown’s high-powered duo had averaged 35 points.

“You can’t have a good shooting night every night,” Riley said.

Georgetown led 55-53 with 4:33 left but could not stay ahead against the Eagles (11-2, 1-0).

“A great player like Smith makes plays like that, makes himself available, asks for the ball and gets himself open,” Georgetown coach Craig Esherick said. “Smith is a great player — he’s got great hands.”

Forward Darrel Owens led the Hoyas with a career-high 20 points. Bowman finished with 11 points and Riley ended with nine points on two of 13 shooting.

The basketball gods were apparently smiling on the Hoyas in the first half because Georgetown led at halftime despite miserable shooting. With three minutes left, the Hoyas were eight of 30 from the field (26.7 percent) but went into their locker room leading 27-26.

In the final 2:48, 6-foot-2 Ashanti Cook scored five points during a 9-0 Georgetown run that allowed the Hoyas to erase a 22-6 deficit, the largest lead of the first half.

Undaunted by BC’s towers in the middle, Cook fearlessly challenged Nate Doornekamp, BC’s junior 7-0 backup center, on a driving move to the basket and the Hoyas trailing 22-18. Cook went straight at Doornekamp, who whacked Cook in midair, but Georgetown’s exciting point guard, stayed with his shot despite the contact and made the layup as Doornekamp was whistled for the foul.

A little more than a minute later, Cook struck again to allow Georgetown to reclaim the lead. With 1:31 left before halftime, Cook drove off the right wing and into the teeth of BC’s 2-3 zone. Cook went off the glass on an 8-foot fadeaway and was fouled by BC point guard Louis Hinnant. Cook converted the free throw, giving the Hoyas a 25-22 lead.

Another reason why the Hoyas led at halftime was the defensive job captain Freeman did on Smith. BC’s 6-7, 265-pound power forward was held to just three points in the first half, 13 below his seasonal average.

Freeman, Georgetown’s 6-9 center, pushed Smith off the low block where he does most of his damage. Smith received the ball at the top of the key and out on the wings, where he is not a threat. With Smith out of position, Georgetown had its way on the glass in the first half with 12 offensive rebounds. Smith, who is also BC’s best rebounder at 8.8 a game, was unable to crash the boards 15 feet from the basket.

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