- The Washington Times - Friday, March 17, 2006

DAYTON, Ohio - An imposing center helped Georgetown get back to winning on the stage it once dominated.

Seven-foot-2 Roy Hibbert scored 17 points today, and seventh-seeded Georgetown relied on its clampdown defense for a 54-49 victory over Northern Iowa in the Minneapolis Regional.

The Hoyas (22-9) will play second-seeded Ohio State on Sunday. The Buckeyes beat Davidson 70-62 in their opener, and coach Thad Matta did a little courtside scouting in the second game.

He spent a lot of time looking up.

No. 10 seed Northern Iowa (23-10) had no one to match up with Hibbert, who went 8-of-10 from the field and had nine rebounds before fouling out with 1:11 to go. He also set the tone inside on defense - the Panthers opened the second half in a 2-of-18 shooting slump against the Big East’s stingiest defense.

For Georgetown, the victory amounted to a homecoming. The Hoyas won the NCAA title in 1984 under John Thompson, who took the Hoyas to three Final Four appearances during a four-year span.

Georgetown hadn’t won 20 games or made a tournament appearance since 2001. Thompson’s son, John III, took over last season and got the Hoyas turned around.

With proud Papa Thompson sitting courtside doing radio commentary, the Hoyas won as they did in the old days - a big man and a big defense.

Hibbert orchestrated the offense, waving the ball in one hand high above the Panthers’ heads while he looked around for an open shooter - something Patrick Ewing did back in Papa Thompson’s day.

After trailing for most of the first half, Georgetown fed off Hibbert’s play and went ahead to stay on Jessie Sapp’s 3-pointer that made it 37-34 with 12:38 to go. Georgetown pushed the lead to as many as six points, then held on from the free-throw line.

Ben Jacobson’s 3-pointer cut it to 50-47 with 13 seconds left, but Ashanti Cook made a pair of free throws and a fastbreak dunk to finish it off. Then, Hibbert went over and got a hug from Papa Thompson.

A hot shooter got the Hoyas on their heels in the first half.

Senior guard John Little made all of his five shots in the first half, four of them from behind the arc. His fourth 3-pointer set a career high and put Northern Iowa up 27-20 late in the half.

The Hoyas clamped down on him in the second half, holding him to 1-for-4 shooting and 17 points overall.

Hibbert was the Hoyas’ only constant in the half, repeatedly scoring inside. He asserted himself at the start of the second half, scoring on a putback and a drive to the basket that tied it at 30.

At that point, Northern Iowa could sense that the momentum had shifted. The Panthers know all about that lately.

From their first day of practice, Northern Iowa had one goal: Win a game in the NCAA tournament. The Panthers had made the tournament each of the past two years and lost in the first round, so just getting there was no longer satisfying.

Northern Iowa tied the school record with 23 wins, but headed into the tournament in a 2-5 slump that carried over. All three of those NCAA losses have been by five points or less.

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