- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 8, 2007

NEW YORK — Villanova’s Curtis Sumpter dropped 25 points on DePaul and then dropped the gauntlet on Georgetown.

“I’m anxious to get a shot at our next opponent, knowing that it’s Georgetown and how our other two games with them ended up,” said Sumpter, who joined freshman point guard and former Herndon High School star Scottie Reynolds (29 points) in leading the Wildcats (22-9) past DePaul 75-67 and into today’s Big East tournament quarterfinal matchup with top-seeded Georgetown (23-6). “I think we match up well with them, and it’s just going to come down to who rebounds the ball better and who wants it more.”

Given their strong respective NCAA tournament resumes, neither team needs today’s game. But given that the Hoyas haven’t won the event since 1989 or even reached the finals since 1996, Georgetown should be as hungry as any team still in attendance.

“The Big East tournament is extremely important,” Georgetown coach John Thompson III said Tuesday night. “We talk all year to our guys about having three seasons — the regular season, the Big East tournament and the NCAAs. We did well in the first season, but it’s over. Now we’re completely focused on having a good couple of days in New York.”

That could be a tall task because Georgetown wasn’t given a particularly favorable draw as the tournament’s top seed. Over the last two seasons, the Hoyas have losing records against only three Big East teams: Villanova (1-2), Syracuse (1-2) and West Virginia (1-2). The Wildcats and Orange well could be Georgetown’s first two opponents in New York.

“Yeah, I did not miss that,” Thompson said with a wry smile. “But at the end of the day, it’s still about us.”

More specifically, it’s about getting junior center Roy Hibbert involved against the Wildcats. In two previous games against Villanova, a 56-52 Georgetown loss at Verizon Center and a 58-55 victory in Philadelphia, Georgetown’s 7-foot-2 center has a total of six points and four field goal attempts.

In 14 other league games this season, Hibbert averaged 14.8 points en route to earning unanimous first-team recognition from the conference coaches. But he hasn’t been able to solve Villanova’s Will Sheridan even though the Georgetown center has advantages of six inches and more than 40 pounds.

Yet Georgetown managed to win the second meeting Feb. 17 despite Hibbert’s struggles, thanks almost entirely to the play of sophomore off-guard Jessie Sapp and Big East player of the year Jeff Green. Sapp posted a career-high 16 points and defensively erased Reynolds over the game’s final three minutes. And Green, a 6-9 junior forward, put on a show that screamed MVP against the Wildcats with 19 points, nine rebounds, eight blocks and four assists, plus a game-deciding jumper from the left wing with 20 seconds remaining.

In fact, both games were long on drama, rare for a Georgetown team that had 20 double-digit wins this season and was involved in only two games decided by four points or fewer, both against Villanova.

“We’ve just had two great games,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said yesterday. “This is going to be a battle, man.”

The Hoyas do have a couple of factors in their favor. First, Villanova senior point guard Mike Nardi has an injured ankle. He played only two minutes yesterday, and Villanova’s offense devolved into an extremely ugly jump-shooting fest without him. Wright was uncertain of Nardi’s status for today’s game.

Second, only six Wildcats played more than two minutes, meaning a Georgetown team that is bigger and deeper to begin with also should be much fresher.

“That’s exactly what I talked to them about in the locker room,” Wright said. “I told them to go back [to the hotel], lay in bed and drink liquids. No one is going to be on their feet. We’ll be watching film, and literally we’ll be pouring liquids down their throats.”

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