- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 22, 2008

RALEIGH, N.C.

The Maryland-Baltimore County basketball team could not deal with the height, athleticism and depth of Georgetown in the first round of the NCAA tournament at RBC Center yesterday.

Whenever the Retrievers tried to get into their offensive sets, they would be met by a swarm of players in blue and gray. Whenever itty-bitty point guard Jay Greene tried to penetrate the three-second lane, he would be swallowed up in a sea of tall bodies and long arms.

It all added up to a predictable outcome, as second-seeded Georgetown overwhelmed 15th-seeded UMBC 66-47.

The Hoyas went on a 13-0 scoring run midway through the first half to take a 31-17 lead at the 2:56 mark and effectively sucked the drama out of the proceedings. The Retrievers drew no closer than 10 points early in the second half and found what it is like to try to score against the team that is No. 1 in the nation in field goal percentage defense.

The Hoyas came into the game holding opponents to a .367 shooting percentage. The Retrievers would have settled on that mark, as they converted only 16 of their 50 shot attempts to finish at 32 percent. That included one field goal that was awarded to them because of a goaltending call against Roy Hibbert in the second half.

UMBC coach Randy Monroe was left to marvel at the Hoyas’ suffocating defense.

“They are very long, very rangy, very quick,” he said. “And they shoot the gaps really well. I hope they go all the way. I really do.”

It might not have been pretty, the clanking of shots by UMBC, the combined 27 turnovers and the underdog from a modestly equipped conference playing to form.

But that is the style of the Hoyas. When they are at their best, they put the opposition in a massive funk. Even the simplest duties 30 to 40 feet from the basket can become chores. That was especially true of the Retrievers, whose starting lineup surrendered 14 inches in height to the Hoyas.

Greene, a 5-foot-8 junior point guard, came into the game averaging 7.3 assists and carrying an impressive assist/turnover ratio of 3.53-to-1.

His season ended with six points, two assists and three turnovers.

Jonathan Wallace said the Hoyas recognized that Greene’s tiny stature masked his weighty contributions to a program making its first appearance in the NCAA tournament after 22 seasons in Division I.

“Watching him on film, we knew how good he is and how he can control a game,” Wallace said.

Greene was a defensive focus of the Hoyas, along with 3-point marksman Ray Barbosa, who never was able to get to his favorite spots on the floor without attracting plenty of attention. Barbosa, UMBC’s leading scorer, was held to six points on 2-for-11 shooting.

“That is one of the most athletic teams we’ve ever played,” Barbosa said.

As lopsided as it was, Hoyas coach John Thompson III said he did not allow himself to acknowledge the obvious until there were fewer than two minutes left.

He looked up at the scoreboard and said, “I think we might win this thing.”

That was a coach fretting all the small stuff in March, when underdogs inevitably pull on the heartstrings of America on neutral courts.

The Hoyas took the crowd out of it early. They caused deflections, harried shooters and held the Retrievers scoreless for seven-plus minutes during their issue-settling run in the first half.

Hibbert, who finished with 13 points and seven rebounds in 23 efficient minutes, often attracted a second defender. That resulted in the Hoyas’ perimeter shooters getting good looks at the basket.

“We had to give up something,” Monroe said.

The Hoyas are accustomed to that defensive approach.

“With Roy doing his job, it allows us perimeter players to spot up and knock down shots,” Wallace said.

With their 51 percent shooting and stifling defense, the Hoyas kept the stress of the tournament to a minimum, if only for one game.

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