- The Washington Times - Friday, March 14, 2008

NEW YORK — When Villanova took away Mount St. Hibbert, Georgetown’s veteran backcourt combination erupted in epic fashion.

Combining for 43 points, Georgetown’s Jessie Sapp and Jonathan Wallace headlined an 82-63 rout of the Wildcats in yesterday’s Big East tournament quarterfinal matchup at Madison Square Garden.

The victory sends the Hoyas (26-4) into the tournament semifinals for the third consecutive season and maybe dashes the 20-11 Wildcats’ NCAA tournament hopes. The Hoyas meet West Virginia (24-9) tonight after the fifth-seeded Mountaineers stunned Connecticut 78-72 yesterday.

“These two were terrific,” Georgetown coach John Thompson III said after Sapp and Wallace led the Hoyas to a Big East record-tying 17 3-pointers. “To say that [senior center] Roy Hibbert [who was held scoreless] had a tough time getting into a rhythm would be an understatement. But the nature of our team is that when any particular guy is struggling, we have other people who can step up. Jon got us going in the first half, and Jessie made plays in the second half.”

For two consecutive seasons, Georgetown’s “Js” have been among the most efficient backcourt combinations in the nation.

“Jon and I love to hear people doubt us,” Sapp said. “We hear it from the media and even other coaches. … They question our wins. They question our ability. They question our guard play. I try not to listen, but it keeps coming up over and over again. You try to walk away, but your ear just tends to hear it. It motivates me, and it motivates our team. We just play for the love of the game. They can keep the recognition; we’re only interested in collecting titles.”

Yesterday’s matchup was billed as Villanova’s opportunity to even the score with Georgetown after the Hoyas edged the Wildcats 55-53 a month ago on a controversial, last-second foul call on Villanova guard Corey Stokes. It was one of a handful of Georgetown wins that Louisville coach Rick Pitino and a host of the national media have dismissed as “lucky.”

“Yeah, those Hoyas got lucky again,” John Thompson Jr. said after his son’s team handed the Wildcats their most lopsided Big East defeat of the season. “Just keep running [Georgetown] down. Just keep telling them they can’t play.”

There was little room for criticism after yesterday’s performance.

Defensively, Georgetown produced another gem. Stokes and fellow star guard Scottie Reynolds (13 points) accounted for more turnovers (six) than field goals (five). Villanova shot 17-for-51 from the field against the Hoyas, who lead the nation in field goal percentage defense (.363).

Offensively, perhaps no game all season has better demonstrated the breadth of Georgetown’s depth and versatility. When the team’s leading scorer, Hibbert, was held scoreless for the first time all season, the Hoyas shifted to a smaller, quicker lineup, buried the Wildcats under a hail of 3-pointers and collected 25 assists on 28 field goals.

“We’re good enough when everybody else steps up to win without Roy,” Thompson III said after the foul-strapped Hibbert logged a season-low 14 minutes. “But that’s something that can’t happen and won’t happen again. He has to get the ball. He has to score.”

Perhaps ideally but not absolutely.

Tonight’s game against West Virginia will prompt the purveyors of Georgetown’s outrageous fortune to revisit the Hoyas’ 58-57 victory over the Mountaineers in Morgantown, W.Va., which Patrick Ewing Jr. preserved when he blocked Da’Sean Butler’s last-second shot.

The Hoyas expect no less.

“I guess everybody hates a winner,” said sophomore forward DaJuan Summers, who scored 19 points. “That’s Hoya paranoia. We’ll just keep playing and trying to shut up the naysayers.”

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