- The Washington Times - Monday, March 20, 2006

DAYTON, Ohio — Big Man U is back in the Sweet 16.

Georgetown frontcourt supersophs Roy Hibbert and Jeff Green dropped a vintage blue-and-gray beating on No. 2 seed Ohio State in the second round of the NCAA tournament yesterday, carrying the Hoyas to a 70-52 pounding of the Buckeyes at University of Dayton Arena.

“As I’ve said all year, he’s just getting started,” Georgetown coach John Thompson III said of Hibbert, who had 20 points, a career-high 14 rebounds and three blocks. “Was this his biggest game of the year? Yes, without a doubt. You could probably say the same thing about Jeff.

“It’s because of the timing. You work all year to put yourself in a position to win now in March. … We have a group of guys that decided they want to keep playing.”

The Hoyas handed the Buckeyes (26-6) their most lopsided loss of the season, in front of a silent majority of scarlet and gray backers among the 12,945 fans in attendance.

Georgetown (23-9) advances to the Sweet 16 for the ninth time in the program’s illustrious history and first time since 2001. The Hoyas will meet third-seeded Florida and surging center Joakim Noah on Friday in Minneapolis.

“Joakim Noah is terrific,” Thompson said when asked his thoughts on the Gators. “I think he’s one of the best players in the nation.”

Thompson has some great players as well. Green finished with 19 points, eight rebounds and six assists, helping the 7-foot-2 Hibbert overwhelm the one-man Ohio State frontcourt of Terence Dials.

The Big Ten player of the year did his part offensively against the Hoyas, scoring 19 points. But the 6-9, 260-pound Dials, who has no legitimate backup, simply couldn’t handle the combination of Hibbert and Green on the defensive end.

“I had my all-floor game going today,” said Green, a 6-9, 235-pound forward from Hyattsville. “They thought they could stay with us in [man-to-man defense], and they paid the price. Whether it was Roy on the low blocks, me finding guys on the backdoor or guys like Darrel [Owens] and Ashanti [Cook] dropping shots, we stepped up and made big plays. And that’s what big-time players do in big-time environments.”

After trailing momentarily in the opening minutes, the Hoyas methodically marched away from the Buckeyes on the scoreboard with a combination of layups generated by their signature version of the Princeton offense, low-post brawn and a few timely 3-pointers from Cook (17 points, five assists) and Owens (14 points).

But that was only half of the formula for a nearly flawless performance. Even Thompson had a difficult time picking whether his offense or defense played better. Georgetown absolutely smothered the Buckeyes on the defensive end, mixing a frenetic man and matchup zone defense that allowed Ohio State’s dangerous 3-point shooters to convert just five of 16 attempts from behind the arc. And three of those conversions came in succession from Ohio State senior Je’Kel Foster over 83 first-half seconds, pulling the Buckeyes within 22-19 with 6:56 remaining before intermission.

“Foster is a guy who can go off,” Thompson said. “But for the most part, I thought our defense was pretty good.”

With the crowd roaring after Foster’s 3s, the Hoyas responded by closing the half on a 16-6 run keyed by Green and Owens that sent Georgetown to the locker room with a comfortable 38-25 lead.

And unlike their second-half performance against Syracuse in the Big East tournament semifinals 10 days ago, when they blew a 36-21 halftime lead by playing tentatively in the second frame, Georgetown never let the Buckeyes off the mat in the second half last night. They countered every Ohio State score with a patient bucket of their own, completely dominated the boards 37-24 and made seven of nine free throws down the stretch to cement the thorough beating of the Big Ten’s best squad.

“This was our day,” said Cook, who finished 7-for-11 from the field. “We weren’t going to give an inch, and it just goes to show you that when you work hard, good things happen. We have an immense amount of confidence now. We believe we can do this and win a national championship.”

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