- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Bright lights, Big Easy.

Georgetown’s Greg Monroe clearly has a sense of dramatic timing. After coasting through the team’s first six games of the season, the sophomore from New Orleans erupted against Butler in the Jimmy V Classic on Tuesday night.

Turning Gotham’s most famous stage into his personal playground, Monroe had 24 points and 15 rebounds, almost single-handedly snuffing out the No. 22 Bulldogs. His career highs in scoring and rebounding carried 15th-ranked Georgetown to a 62-55 victory at Madison Square Garden.

The Hoyas (7-0) can match their best start under coach John Thompson III with a victory against No. 17 Washington in the John Wooden Classic on Saturday in Anaheim, Calif.

“There’s no question that Greg is far more of a presence. He’s far more assertive this season,” Thompson said after his 6-foot-10 star went 9-for-20 from the field and added a pair of blocks and assists. “I thought we had an overall very good team effort, and Greg was obviously a part of that today.”

Monroe’s monster night didn’t come against a hapless mid-major in rebuilding mode; the Bulldogs (6-3) haven’t enjoyed the start many pundits expected, but they are expected to win the Horizon League for the third consecutive season behind a pair of all-league big men in Matt Howard and Gordon Hayward.

Monroe and junior forward Julian Vaughn combined to silence Howard, holding the 2008-09 Horizon League player of the year to nine points on 1-for-9 shooting.

“I think the whole team just had an energy about itself tonight,” Monroe said in his humble baritone. “I wasn’t forcing anything, but I was definitely excited for this stage.”

While Monroe dominated the Bulldogs on both ends in the paint, the Hoyas scorched the nets early from outside against Butler’s suspect perimeter defense. Junior swingman Austin Freeman (18 points) made his first four attempts from behind the arc to start the team’s long-range assault, and a 3 by freshman Hollis Thompson with 13:33 left gave the Hoyas a 52-35 lead.

“When Greg is playing like that, he gets everybody else open,” said Freeman, who finished 5-for-7 from the field. “He draws so much attention that we end up wide open on kick-outs. And he’s such an unselfish teammate that he’s always looking for us.”

But Georgetown simply could not manage to defend Hayward (24 points). The sophomore led the Bulldogs back into contention by repeatedly drawing contact and converting from the free throw line.

“That’s what he does,” Thompson said. “Their team has a knack for drawing fouls - and particularly Hayward. He’s just so active.”

With Hayward leading the way from the line and threatening to foul out Georgetown’s entire array of forwards, the Bulldogs pulled within 60-53 on a pair of free throws from Howard with 4:03 remaining. But they never truly threatened the Hoyas down the stretch thanks to some stingy defense and timely free throw shooting.

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