WEB EXCLUSIVE: Hoyas all business against feisty Retrievers

By:
03/13/2008

They wouldn’t play dead. They never rolled over. But the 15-seed UMBC Retrievers ran into much bigger dogs today at the RBC Center, as the 2-seed Georgetown Hoyas played to their strengths—lockdown defense, methodical offense and one of the best big men in the country in senior center Roy Hibbert—to record a ho-hum 66-47 win to move on to the second round of the NCAA tournament.

Hibbert (6 for 8 from the floor) and his fellow senior starter, guard Jonathan Wallace (5 for 10), paced the Hoyas with 13 points a piece, and the team shot 51 percent from the field, while holding UMBC to 32 percent. Freshman guard Austin Freeman (3 for 5) added 11 points and senior forward Patrick Ewing (5 for 6) had 10 of his own to join Wallace and Hibbert in double digits, and freshman guard Chris Wright, who proved invaluable on both ends of the floor, rounded out the Hoyas’ balanced attack with eight points. The scoring distribution helped offset a tough night for junior guard Jessie Sapp, who had trouble finding his range and shot 1-7 from the floor for 3 points.

The Hoyas struggled with three familiar nemeses: turnovers (15 as a team), mediocre 3-point shooting (8-23) and worse foul shooting (6 for 14, 42.9 percent). In the second half, they shot just 27.3 percent from beyond the arc. They were hampered early by the Retrievers’ match-up zone, which allowed them to pick off several half-hearted cross-court passes and turn them into lay-ups. Ultimately, though, the Hoyas proved too athletic and simply too big for UMBC’s aggressive set.

“Coming into this game, we knew that their match-up, the zone, has given people problems,” Georgetown Head Coach John Thompson III said after the game. “We were ready for that I think.”

It looked like the Hoyas were going to put the Retrievers to sleep early after an opening-possession lay-up by Hibbert (13 pts.) and a 3-pointer by Wallace on the next trip down the floor gave them a 5-0 lead. But UMBC answered with a 7-0 run and kept the game within 4 points for most of the first half, even taking a three point lead when senior guard Ray Barbosa nailed a 3-pointer with 12:50 left in the first frame. It was then that Wallace came up big in a timely spot—like he has so often over his four years on the Hilltop—making a driving lay-up and drawing the foul on Georgetown’s ensuing possession to tie it up. Sophomore center Vernon Macklin’s tip-in of a Jessie Sapp miss two possessions later gave Georgetown a 14-12 edge; the Retrievers would never lead again.

After senior guard Brian Hodges’ 3-pointer with 8:11 to go in the first half, the Hoyas held UMBC scoreless over the next seven minutes and four seconds. The Retrievers brought Georgetown’s lead back down to nine after junior guard Jay Greene drew the defense on a drive and found senior forward Cavell Johnson for an open dunk with eight seconds left, Wallace pushed the ball back up the floor and found Wright for a fall-away three at the buzzer.

“I think it was a momentum boost going into the half,” Wright said. “After they scored, they came out and got a big dunk and then we come right back to score so it kind of set the tone for the second half, but in the second half I think they probably forgot about the play.”

It took the Hoyas three minutes to find cotton in the second half (a Summers 3-pointer broke the dry spell), but their impeccable defense prevented the lead from shrinking to less than 10. Georgetown got stuck in a three-minute dry spell starting with just over 10 minutes left in the game, and a 3-pointer by Greene followed by a pair of free-throws by junior forward Darryl Proctor got the lead down to 13. After Macklin was unable to tip-in a Sapp miss for the Hoyas, Johnson put up a three in attempt to drop the margin to 10, but couldn’t convert, and Greene, grabbing the rebound, missed a three of his own in a sequence that killed any momentum UMBC tried to work up. The teams went back-and-forth for the rest of the game, a proposition that, at that point, didn’t favor UMBC.

“I’m not gonna put my head down because we lost by 19 to Georgetown,” Hodges said after the game. “They’re probably going to the Final Four this year.”

The sentiment seemed to be shared by all of the Retrievers, who, as the cliché goes, were happy to be there. Greene, who was honored as the top player in the America East conference tournament and who drew a good deal of defensive attention from the Hoyas, echoed Hodges’ praise for Georgetown (“They’re gonna do good things in the tournament”) but wasn’t demoralized by the loss.

“I felt very confident, personally I feel like I could play against anybody in this country,” he said about playing against Georgetown’s guards. “That’s the attitude I think you have to have when you go against these schools, you got to feel like you can play with them. It was a good experience for me and everybody else that’s coming back here next year.”

“I can’t be more proud of a group of young men,” UMBC coach Randy Monroe said. “Nothing can dampen this, not a loss in the NCAA Tournament can take away what was accomplished this year at UMBC.”

As the Retrievers head back to Baltimore County, the Hoyas prepare to face 10-seed Davidson on Sunday. The Wildcats beat Gonzaga 82-76 in a phenomenal game this afternoon, on the strength of a 40-point performance by sophomore guard Stephen Curry.

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Mike Stewart


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