- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 18, 2007

PISCATAWAY, N.J. — Georgetown began its week on the Jersey Turnpike with an anxiety-free pit stop in Piscataway last night.

After a sluggish first five minutes, the Hoyas awakened to throttle the Scarlet Knights 68-54 in a game that wasn’t nearly as close as the final margin might indicate.

Georgetown (12-5, 2-2 Big East) has the day off before traveling on up the Turnpike to face Seton Hall (11-6, 3-2) tomorrow in a rare Friday night fray at Continental Airlines Arena.

It took Georgetown five quick turnovers and a series of indifferent opening possessions to shake off the doldrums from Saturday night’s painful loss at No. 7 Pittsburgh. Once the Hoyas did so, the only team that came close to stopping the Hoyas last night was wearing blue and gray. Once the Hoyas concentrated, there was no contest; whatever Georgetown wanted offensively against hapless Rutgers (8-10, 1-4), Georgetown got.

Personifying Georgetown’s slow start, junior Roy Hibbert began the game by bobbling an entry pass on one end and then watching while smaller Scarlet Knights outbattled him for a series of offensive rebounds on the other. That sequence earned the 7-foot-2 center from Adelphi a quick trip to the bench in lieu of freshman Vernon Macklin (seven points, two assists), who was instrumental in helping the Hoyas trudge to a 12-4 lead midway through the opening half.

Apparently, Hibbert received the not-so-subtle message delivered by Georgetown coach John Thompson III. Hibbert (16 points, nine rebounds) looked like a different player when he returned to the lineup later in the half, shredding the undersized Scarlet Knights at will inside as he connected on seven of his eight field goal attempts and posted his numbers in just 22 minutes of playing time.

“I thought Roy started off a little slow; he was bumbling around a little bit and having a hard time finding his way,” Thompson said. “But then he settled down and found a little rhythm. … As long as he’s being assertive, good things tend to happen.”

Hibbert was extremely assertive down the stretch in a first half that saw the Hoyas make 12 of 18 field goal attempts (66.7 percent) while holding the Scarlet Knights to a woeful 4-for-23 (17.4 percent). The result was a 28-13 halftime lead for the Hoyas that left little doubt as to the game’s eventual outcome for the subdued crowd of 6,748 fans at the often-raucous RAC.

The comfortable margin, which ballooned to 42-21 on a beautiful freshman-to-freshman feed and jam from Macklin to DaJuan Summers with 15 minutes remaining, also gave Thompson a perfect opportunity to rest his veterans for tomorrow’s matchup with Seton Hall.

“The one-day turnaround definitely hurt us against Villanova, so I wanted to get some guys a blow tonight if I could,” said Thompson, who tabbed fatigue as part of the issue in his team’s surprising 56-52 home loss to the Wildcats last week. “I wanted to rest some guys if I could and see if the young guys could play it out. We’ll see if it helps [tomorrow] night.”

With the game well in hand minutes after intermission, Thompson sat starters Jeff Green, Jonathan Wallace and Hibbert for the bulk of the closing half, allowing sophomore guard Jessie Sapp and junior forward Patrick Ewing to close the game with the team’s trio of freshman (Macklin, Summers and Jeremiah Rivers).

Highlighted by Summers’ game-high 17 points, the three combined to score 30 points in a season-high 66 minutes of playing time. Summers, the 6-8 forward from Baltimore who has started all but three games for the Hoyas this season, displayed his signature smooth stroke, dropping five of his seven shots to join Hibbert in double digits.

But it was the play of Macklin and Rivers (six points, one assist) that truly stood out as both recorded perhaps the best performances of their debut seasons.

“I thought they were pretty good, to tell you the truth,” Thompson said of his freshmen. “You come in as a freshman, and there is an adjustment process. And they’ve worked through that process, and I thought they played very well tonight collectively. And we need them to keep going.”

Thompson was particularly impressed with Macklin, a spidery 6-9 forward from Portsmouth, Va.

“He gives a little different look than Roy because he’s faster,”Thompson said. “And he’s gotten a comfort level now with what we’re doing, and I thought he was very, very good tonight.”

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