- The Washington Times - Friday, January 6, 2006

Georgetown’s Westchester connection rescued the Hoyas from a debut dud.

Senior guard Ashanti Cook scored nine of the team’s first 11 points after halftime and longtime best friend and teammate Brandon Bowman posted his first double-double of the season to carry the Hoyas to a 72-62 victory over Providence in the Big East opener for both teams last night at MCI Center.

The Hoyas (9-2, 1-0 Big East) next travel to Madison Square Garden for a rare Sunday night tip against St. John’s.

Georgetown entered the game off an eight-day break after winning the Sun Bowl Tournament in El Paso. And the rust was evident during a ghastly first half against the Friars (7-5, 0-1) in which they committed an outrageous 15 turnovers, played sluggish transition defense and fell behind one of the league’s weakest teams 30-24 at halftime.

Such starts demand the intervention of senior leadership. And that’s exactly what the Hoyas got in the forms of Cook (15 points) and Bowman (19 points, 12 rebounds), the Georgetown duo who attended Westchester High in Los Angeles before coming to the Hilltop.

“The say seniors step up in big situations, and that’s pretty much what we did,” said Cook, the 6-foot-2 combo guard who outscored Providence 9-0 on his own over the second half’s opening five minutes. “Seeing as we’ve been around here the longest, we’re supposed to be the leaders, so that’s part of our job.”

After Georgetown sophomore point man Jonathan Wallace dropped a 3-pointer to start the second half on a positive note for the Hoyas, Cook reeled off nine unanswered points, staking the Hoyas to a 36-30 lead with 14:35 left. During his inspired run, Cook scored in every manner imaginable — dropping fallaway jumpers and 3-pointers, stripping Providence gunner Donnie McGrath (17 points) en route to a steal and coast-to-coast score and even outwrestling Providence center Randall Hanke (17 points) for an offensive rebound and twisting putback.

“I thought [Ashanti] played very poorly in the first half, and I made that very clear to him at halftime,” said Georgetown coach John Thompson III, who admitted he peeled a little paint in the Hoyas’ locker room after the team’s lifeless opening frame. “We had 15 turnovers at halftime, and they weren’t forced by the defense. Balls were hitting guys in the hands, and they were just bobbling them away.

“I told them at the half that they better start playing harder, playing with some more energy. And they did. It started with Ashanti on the defensive end at the start of the second half and carried throughout the entire team.”

Playing with unusual intensity after intermission, Bowman provided a steady force for the Hoyas on both ends of the floor, recording season highs in both points and rebounds, as well as providing the solution to a Providence zone which seemed to confuse the Hoyas in the first half.

Time and again in the closing half, the athletic 6-9 forward stepped to the elbow in textbook zone-breaking style and triggered the Georgetown offense from within the Providence defense with a series of slashing drives and mid-range jumpers. And on the defensive end, Bowman was a jumping jack on the glass, soaring over the slower frontcourt Friars to claim 10 defensive rebounds.

“Coach has been on me about my rebounding, and the last couple of games I’ve tried to step it up a little down there,” said Bowman, who also snagged a team-high nine boards in the Hoyas’ last victory at UTEP.

The spark which began with Cook and spread to Bowman also blazed in the form of sophomore center Roy Hibbert (16 points, 10 rebounds), who authored the play of the night when he spun around Providence reserve center Herbert Hill for a crowd-rousing monster slam-and-one that gave the Hoyas a 44-34 lead with 11:53 left and further fired his teammates.

“I was in awe,” said Bowman of the catlike explosive slam from the surprisingly agile 7-foot-2 center. “Coach pretty much ripped us at halftime, tearing into us, and we took it to heart. This is the start of Big East season, and you don’t want to start 0-1.”

Once the Hoyas earned the 10-point cushion, they were never again seriously challenged by the Friars, who repeatedly dipped into the margin behind McGrath’s shooting only to have the enthused Hoyas respond with offensive salvos of their own seal the game by dropping 12 of 13 free throws down the stretch.

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