- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 19, 2005

ANNAPOLIS — Big Roy has become a beast.

Consummating the hype heaped upon him by his Georgetown teammates in the preseason, sophomore center Roy Hibbert showcased his new nastiness against Navy last night. The 7-foot-2, 283-pounder torched the Midshipmen for a career-high 20 points at Alumni Hall, leading the Hoyas to a comfortable 72-49 victory in the season opener for both teams.

“One game does not a leap make, but Roy has improved,” said Georgetown coach John Thompson III, beginning his second season on the Hilltop after last season’s 19-13 campaign. “Roy worked extremely hard over the summer. His confidence has improved. His strength has improved. And his teammates’ confidence in him has improved. … His development, if he continues to improve, will make our team a lot better.”

Both locals face relatively quick road turnarounds, as Georgetown (1-0) plays Monday at James Madison, while the Mids (0-1) travel to Arkansas-Little Rock on Tuesday.

Hibbert, whose previous career high was a 15-point performance in a loss at Notre Dame last season, was extremely erratic as a freshman, rarely supplying the Hoyas with a reliable inside presence when power forward Jeff Green needed a breather or found himself in foul trouble.

But after adding 15 pounds of muscle during the offseason, the towering Hibbert set the tone for a dominant performance last night by scoring the first five points of the game on a dunk and an old-fashioned three-point play. And when Green (13 points, seven rebounds) exited with two fouls less than eight minutes into the action, Hibbert flourished instead of vanishing.

He didn’t just exploit the much smaller Mids with his massive frame, he also showcased a little baby hook. And at one point as the high-post, trigger-man in Thompson’s Princeton offense, Hibbert drilled a foul-line jumper when Navy left him unchecked and dared him to shoot.

For the game, Hibbert finished eight of 11 from the floor, adding seven rebounds and a career-high four blocks to his excellent offensive output as the Hoyas waltzed out to a 16-4 lead midway through the first half with a smothering style of defense rarely exhibited last season.

“At this point our defense is probably a little ahead of our offense, and that’s a little unusual for most of my teams. But we’ve concentrated on defense in practice,” said Thompson, whose team was never challenged after claiming a dominating 35-18 halftime edge. “Our offense wasn’t smooth. The flow of our offense [was my primary disappointment]. But that was as much a credit to what they did on defense as anything else.”

The one guarantee from a service academy is superlative effort, and the Mids’ defensive sweat led to eight steals and resulted in 15 Georgetown turnovers. Aside from Hibbert and fifth-year senior swingman Darrel Owens (10 points), none of the Hoyas looked particularly comfortable on the offensive end of the floor.

Part of that, no doubt, can be attributed to opening-game rust. Unlike in seasons past, Georgetown played no exhibition games leading up to last night’s scrap with Navy. But part of the cause for Georgetown’s halting offense also seemed to stem from the Hoyas’ extraordinary talent edge over the home team.

Aside from guards Jon Wallace and Ashanti Cook, who were doggedly harassed on the perimeter by Navy’s solid backcourt duo of Corey Johnson (14 points) and Greg Sprink (14 points), Georgetown players routinely found themselves with wide open mid-range jumpers but seemed both surprised to have such easy looks and reticent to fire on such uncontested looks early in the shot clock. The result was some overpassing, some forced entries into the pivot (where the Navy defense was sagging) and precious little offensive rhythm.

Somewhat flustered by the ragged offense with his team leading by the comfortable margin of 56-32 with 11 minutes left, Thompson decided to dedicate the second portion of the second half to his freshmen and experimentation. To that end, freshmen Jessie Sapp (19 minutes) and Marc Egerson (12 minutes) saw extended minutes down the stretch at the point guard and small forward positions, respectively, earning valuable experience before the Hoyas begin the serious portion of their schedule.

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