- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 24, 2006

Navy made the mistake of ramming Georgetown’s battleship.

Through nearly 13 minutes of action yesterday at Verizon Center, Navy controlled Georgetown in principle and pace, if not on the scoreboard.

The Midshipmen misfired, but they got open looks against Georgetown’s somewhat indifferent defense. Navy trailed but still was following the pre-Christmas, post-exam upset template: Lull your superior opponent to sleep, hang around in striking distance until late in the second half, spring a final, frenetic surge on said opponent and hope they can’t reverse 30-something minutes of dispassionate play down the stretch.

Elbowing Georgetown’s Jeff Green probably wasn’t, or shouldn’t have been, part of the plan in what turned out to be a 65-44 victory for the Hoyas. But that’s exactly what happened with 7:28 left in the first half, as Georgetown sleepwalked through the motions with a 17-10 lead.

Navy’s Adam Teague prodded the junior forward, and Green responded by scoring 18 of his game-high 20 points from that point forward, as the Hoyas (9-3) rolled.

“If we [only] can get someone to hit Jeff Green in every game,” coach John Thompson III said after his 6-foot-9, 235-pound stalwart took over an otherwise forgettable game. “He got a little upset and decided to go to work. He did get going. He did get excited. He did get animated and played very well for the rest of the game, I think.”

The incident itself looked rather benign: Green absorbed the elbow, received a foul call, used a bit of colorful language to congratulate the official on his call and then discarded Teague en route to the foul line, earning a technical for what the official deemed “intentional contact.”

“The guy elbowed me in the stomach when I was trying to walk up the court and that kind of flipped me off a little bit,” Green (20 points, nine rebounds) said. “That kind of got under my skin a little bit. It made me play harder, and it was worse for them.”

Navy (9-4) converted the technical on Green into two free throws from leading scorer Greg Sprink (16 points). But Georgetown converted Green’s resulting passion into a rout.

The preseason All-Big East performer from Hyattsville scored Georgetown’s next eight points, staking the Hoyas to a 33-23 halftime lead. More importantly, Green’s newfound fire completely changed the tone of the game by roughly trebling Georgetown’s effort on the offensive and defensive ends.

“We feed off of that,” Georgetown center Roy Hibbert (15 points, seven rebounds) said. “I love it. That’s the Jeff I see every day in practice. Jeff is always the leader out there. It starts with him. And it’s scary for other teams to see Jeff like that. Because once he gets it, he’s either going to score or help somebody else score.”

Or keep the opposition from scoring. Navy, one of the nation’s most potent 3-point shooting teams, finished 4-for-22 from long range. For most of the first half, that futility was a result of poor shooting. Post-elbow, Georgetown’s defense swarmed the Mids. Aside from the occasional hoop from off-guard Kaleo Kina (nine points), Navy struggled to get anything going. The Mids scored back-to-back baskets just once in the game, finished with season lows in scoring and shooting percentage (31.3 percent) and were outrebounded by the bigger Hoyas (41-18).

The margin of victory would have been far worse had Georgetown also not endured one of its worst shooting games of the season. The Hoyas shot 4-for-16 from 3-point range and shot below 50 percent from the field for the first time since opening the month with a loss at Duke.

The Hoyas now have a week off to enjoy the holidays before heading to Michigan on Dec. 30 for their final nonconference game. And given the team’s five-game, double-digit-margin victory streak, Georgetown looks ready for Big East play after opening the season in extremely shaky form.

“We’re coming together as a team,” Hibbert said. “We know who can hit shots and when, and we’re picking things up a lot quicker than we expected. So I think we’re ready [for Big East play].”

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