PISCATAWAY, N.J. – With 2:08 to go in the game Saturday night, Georgetown looked to be in trouble.

Its once-comfortable lead shrank to four points. Rutgers was on an 8-2 run and pressing hard. The near-capacity crowd of 8,007 at the Louis Brown Athletic Center, commonly known as the RAC, was finally becoming a factor. Georgetown had turned the ball over on two consecutive possessions.

Initially, junior guard Ashanti Cook was unable to inbound the ball due to the Scarlet Knights’ defensive pressure. After a timeout, though, he heaved the ball the length of the court and found junior forward Brandon Bowman. Instead of gunning toward the basket, Bowman wisely brought the ball back out to set up the offense and take time off the clock.

Freshman guard Jonathan Wallace drew a foul away from the ball and drilled two free throws. On the ensuing possession, Rutgers guard Quincy Douby turned the ball over to Bowman, and the Scarlet Knights saw their furious comeback attempt fall apart. The Hoyas made their free throws down the stretch and walked out of the RAC with a 61-56 victory.

“Everything we go through is a learning experience,” Georgetown Head Coach John Thompson III said. “We were unnecessarily frazzled [during the Rutgers run]. We just had to relax. I just thought we had to be strong with the ball. We had to work a little harder to get open. We had to be better receivers and better passers.”

The win is significant for the Hoyas (7-3, 15-6) as it comes in an arena where they had collapsed late in games several times since the Scarlet Knights joined the Big East nine seasons ago. They were only 2-5 in the building entering the game. Thompson, too, had lost both of his previous visits to the RAC as head coach of in-state rival Princeton.

But Saturday night Georgetown overcame whatever demons had haunted it in the building as the Hoyas withstood the expected run by Rutgers. In the final minute of the game, the only noise that could be heard from the usually raucous crowd was a “We are Georgetown” chant coming from the upper reaches of the gym.

“I went to Princeton. Any win in this building is a great win. I thought that was a very good win for our guys,” Thompson said.

For Rutgers (1-8, 7-12), the struggles continue. It has lost five straight and nine of 10 games. Its mystique at the RAC also seems to be wearing off. The Scarlet Knights were 17-7 there against Big East opponents in Head Coach Gary Waters’ first three years but are only 1-4 at home in the conference this season.

With Georgetown’s two leading scorers, Bowman and freshman forward Jeff Green, having quiet nights and scoring only seven points each, other Hoyas had to pick up the scoring load. Cook came up huge, matching a career high with 23 points on 7-for-12 shooting from the field and 7-for-8 from the foul line. Freshman swingman Tyler Crawford added 11, one short of his career high.

In the first half, Georgetown found itself struggling mightily to put the ball in the basket after Green picked up his second foul and headed to the bench with 12 minutes still to go. A 9-7 lead turned into an 18-10 deficit as the Hoyas were forced to hoist up long threes. They missed six straight shots from downtown and went exactly seven minutes without a field goal.

But Cook finally started to get Georgetown back in the game. He hit two threes in a row and wound up scoring eight points in the closing minutes. Crawford added five to help the Hoyas close the half on a 19-6 run and take a 29-24 lead at the midway point.

Georgetown picked up in the second half where it left off and extended its lead to double digits. It led comfortably by 10 to 12 points for most of the second before Rutgers finally began to make its run with less than four minutes to play.

Just like they had at MCI Center a month ago, the Hoyas were able to contain the Scarlet Knights’ two top scorers, Douby and senior guard Ricky Shields. Douby scored only nine points, six below his season average, on 2-for-8 shooting. Shields shot just 2-for-11 from the floor and ended up with only six points. He had been averaging 14 per game.

The Hoyas now get their first break in the conference season. They have a full week off before they play host to West Virginia Saturday at MCI Center. They occupy sole possession of third place in the Big East and have already guaranteed themselves a winning season in 2004-05.

Thompson, though, still sees a lot to work on in the off-week.

“I just told the guys there’s so much we need to improve on,” he said. “We have a lot of areas we need to focus on down the stretch and a lot of areas we need to tighten up.”

Have a reaction to this article? Write a letter to the editor.

Comments are closed.