- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 6, 2008

PISCATAWAY, N.J. — When all else fails, the Georgetown Hoyas can rely on their suffocating defense, which they did yesterday in their Big East opener.

The No. 7 Hoyas looked far from crisp, yet they still cruised to a 58-46 victory over Rutgers at Louis Brown Athletic Center. The Big East schedule gets noticeably tougher in the coming weeks, so coach John Thompson III understands improvements are in order as the Hoyas ease into league play.

Roy Hibbert was held to a mere six points and four rebounds, saddled with foul trouble for stretches of the game.

The vaunted backdoor cuts Thompson perfected several exits down the New Jersey Turnpike at Princeton never materialized as the Scarlet Knights clogged nearly every passing lane. But it’s still a Big East win in the arena formerly known as Rutgers Athletic Center, and Thompson was ready to savor it on the ride home.

“Coming into the RAC and winning is very good,” Thompson said. “This time of year, as a coach, you want more, you expect more, you hope to get more, but a road win in this league is good. There’s no two ways about it.”

The most disconcerting aspect for Georgetown was Rutgers’ 43-26 domination of the glass. The smaller Scarlet Knights made an effort to attack every loose rebound and crash the offensive boards.

The Hoyas (11-1, 1-0) said they would shore up the weakness before Tuesday’s game at DePaul, even if that means the guards will have to stay back and help rebound instead of leaking out in transition.

“It’s something we need to work on,” said guard Jessie Sapp, who led the Hoyas with five rebounds.

The guards excelled in nearly every other category, most importantly on the scoring end. Austin Freeman led all scorers with 13 points, while senior guard Jonathan Wallace chipped in with 11. The Hoyas did most of their damage from the perimeter, making 11 of 23 3-pointers.

At one point in the second half, the Hoyas scored four straight baskets on 3-pointers to open up a 17-point advantage, their largest of the afternoon. The Scarlet Knights seemed content to let the Hoyas fire away from the outside as their game plan focused on neutralizing Hibbert and the backdoor cuts.

“We did a lot of good things,” said JR Inman, who led the Scarlet Knights with 11 points. “Obviously, the ball didn’t go into the basket as we would have liked, but I was satisfied with our defensive pressure.”

Rutgers never looked comfortable on the offensive end.

When it managed to find open spaces in the Hoyas’ 2-3 zone, it missed shots. When turnovers led to transition opportunities, the Scarlet Knights blew easy layups. And when the rare opportunity with a clear lane to the basket came, Rutgers bricked a dunk attempt.

“We missed dunks. We missed layups. We missed free throws,” Rutgers coach Fred Hill said. “We did everything [else] we needed to do to win the game.”

No other player scored in double figures for Rutgers.

The 6-foot-11 Hamady N’Diaye played solid defense on Hibbert but missed all six of his jump shots. Rutgers shot just 31 percent from the field.

“It sounds like a broken record, but that’s right now the thing that we struggle with — shooting the basketball,” Hill said.

The Scarlet Knights didn’t even have much of a home crowd to rely on.

With their football counterparts playing in the International Bowl in Toronto, nearly half of the 7,938 in attendance were Georgetown fans.

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