Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Streaking Hoyas to Face ‘Cats

To say that junior center Roy Hibbert does not miss many shots would be an understatement for the player who now leads the country in field goal percentage, at 70.6 percent.

So why were Georgetown fans so shocked on Jan. 8 when he did not miss any field goal attempts against Villanova?

Because he did not make any, either. Hibbert officially went 0-for-0 from the field, and junior forward Jeff Green managed only seven points on 2-of-5 shooting as the then-unranked Hoyas fell to the Wildcats at Verizon Center 56-52.

“We just struggled,” Green said. “We shot ourselves in the foot by committing too many turnovers, and I feel like we didn’t do a good enough job of presenting Roy with the ball early in the game.”

What a difference a month makes. Lately, the Hoya big men have been outstanding, leading No. 14 Georgetown (19-5, 9-2 Big East) to eight consecutive wins and sole possession of second place in the Big East. To prevail in Saturday’s rematch against Villanova (18-7, 6-5) at Wachovia Center – and move into a first-place tie with Pittsburgh – Hibbert and Green will need to find a way to continue their recent high level of play against the pesky Wildcat defense.

“Roy’s been dominant down low,” junior guard Jonathan Wallace said. “That’s what we ask of him, that’s what we need him to do. He’s playing his role, and every other guy on the team is starting to step up and fill in the gaps, and that’s what it’s going to take for us to be successful.”

Hibbert won recognition as Big East player of the week last week after averaging 21.5 points and 11 rebounds in the Hoyas’ wins over Louisville and Marquette. He added 20 points and six rebounds in Georgetown’s blowout victory over West Virginia on Monday.

“I can’t just coast,” Hibbert said. “The team needs me, so I’m just going to get involved as much as I can, whether it’s getting rebounds or scoring points or blocking shots.”

Villanova Head Coach Jay Wright said that defending Hibbert on Saturday will be a challenge.

“I think that they are getting him the ball in different ways and he’s very comfortable with it,” Wright said. “He knows where he’s getting the ball when he gets it from the top or gets it from the wing, and therefore he knows where the defense is immediately, and he makes a quick move or he knows where the help’s coming from. If you double him or help, he finds the open man. That’s something you can watch on film. You can tell a player that, but it takes the length of the season to get that feel.”

As the Wildcats try to repeat their defensive performance against Green and Hibbert on Saturday, the Hoyas will try to once again shut down 6-foot-7 senior forward Curtis Sumpter, who is third in the Big East in scoring at 17.3 points per game. Sumpter scored just five points on 2-of-8 shooting before fouling out against Georgetown last month.

“We’ve just got to be there on the catch on [Sumpter],” Green said. “He’s a great player. He can shoot the three, play inside and out. We just have to not let him get going early like he does a lot of games. And we’ve got to do that with their other role players, too.”

Freshman guard Scottie Reynolds, who is averaging 11.8 points and 4.2 assists per game, led the Wildcats with 16 points in their Jan. 8 win at Verizon Center.

Villanova has won four games in a row after consecutive losses to Notre Dame and No. 7 Pittsburgh. In their most recent game, the Wildcats defeated hapless Cincinnati 64-48 on Wednesday.

At 52.6 percent, Georgetown ranks first in the Big East (and second in the nation behind No.1 Florida) in team field goal percentage. Villanova shoots just 44 percent from the field, 10th best in the conference. However, the Wildcats lead the Big East in team free throw percentage at 78.1 percent.

A win on Saturday would give Georgetown its first nine-game winning streak in Big East play since 1987.

Wright said it would be unrealistic to try to limit Hibbert to zero field goal attempts again.

“We played them so long ago,” Wright said. “They were on a real run and we weren’t playing well, and they had a big game coming up. There was no reason for them to get excited for us. I thought we caught them at a good time last time. I don’t think we’re catching them at a good time this time.”

Beyond creating more scoring opportunities for Hibbert and Green, the Hoyas will also need to do a better job of limiting their turnovers against Villanova on Saturday. The Wildcats used an aggressive full-court press to force 22 Georgetown turnovers and disrupt the flow of the Hoyas’ offense last month. Georgetown never seemed comfortable on the offensive end and shot an uncharacteristically low 42.1 percent from the field in the game.

“We’ve seen a lot of full-court pressure early on in the Big East season and the season in general,” Wallace said. “I think the team has matured a little bit more, and we’ve sat back and assessed film and seen where the weakness is – where we can attack that ball pressure.”

Georgetown Head Coach John Thompson III said that Saturday’s game will be another challenging Big East contest.

“I’ve said it 100 times – it’s a league of very good players and very good coaches, a league of great tradition,” Thompson said. “And they’re a good team. They are playing well right now.”

But the Hoyas are playing better. They are 15-2 in their last 17 games, and their average margin of victory during their current eight-game winning streak is 16 point-statistics that have not gone unnoticed by the opposing coach.

“Not only are they winning games, I just think they’re really clicking,” Wright said. “They’re just executing well. They really understand how to win games. It’s going to be a great game. The Wachovia Center should be sold out, and it’s going to be an outstanding college basketball atmosphere.”

“We just have to stay mentally focused and go in there and handle business,” Wallace said.

Saturday’s opening tip is set for noon at Wachovia Center in Philadelphia. The game will be televised on ESPN.

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