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Freshman center Greg Monroe

On SportsCenter Saturday morning, the ESPN crew said Georgetown freshman center Greg Monroe may already be the nation’s best passing big man.

As if eager to prove the pundits correct, Monroe put on a splendid display against the Providence Friars, using an array of no-look bounce passes and laser-like chest passes to facilitate the offense from the high post and rack up a career-high eight assists – a number that easily could have been much higher had his teammates finished a handful of makeable layups.

Just missing a triple-double, Monroe added 13 points and 11 rebounds, as well as five steals and two blocks in the Hoyas’ 82-75 win.

“Putting the ball in his hands makes life easier on everyone else, and I think our guys realize that,” Georgetown Head Coach John Thompson III said after the game.

As most of the Hoyas’ opponents do, the Friars played exclusively zone defense. Providence Head Coach Keno Davis said after the game that with a short turnaround between his team’s Wednesday night win over Cincinnati and Saturday’s bout with Georgetown, he felt his team did not have time enough to prepare, nor fresh enough legs, to play man-to-man.

Early on as Georgetown struggled and fell behind, Monroe had few touches and no shots. But as the first half pressed on and the Hoyas slowly settled into their game, the 6-foot-11 freshman found his game.

“I felt like the first 10 minutes or so we didn’t get [jersey No.] 10 the ball enough; once we started getting him the ball, we started getting really easy shots,” Thompson said.

For much of the rest of the game, Monroe camped out in the middle of the zone, usually within a pace or so of the foul line, and methodically picked apart the Friars’ defense. He tallied three first-half assists, finding freshman guard Jason Clark, sophomore guard Austin Freeman and junior forward DaJuan Summers for layups.

Some of Monroe’s finest work, however, did not show up in his stat line. With just under six minutes left in the first half and the Hoyas behind by five, Monroe was triple-teamed on the left elbow but managed to find Freeman alone under the basket. Freeman missed his first layup attempt – denying Monroe the assist – but made his second chance.

onroe rarely called his own number in the first half, scoring only on a put-back dunk with a minute left.

If Monroe’s work in the first half was relatively quiet, the statement he made in the second half was loud and unmistakable.

It took him just 25 seconds to get going, as he found Wright cutting down the lane and hit him with another perfect bounce pass, this one from the left block, for a layup.

With seven minutes elapsed and Georgetown in the midst of its game-changing 21-2 run, Monroe drove down the left side and instead of kissing the ball off the glass, threw down a tenacious slam dunk, drawing contact in the process. His smooth free-throw stroke made the score 50-44 Hoyas.

With 12 minutes to go, posting up on the low block, Monroe found classmate Henry Sims cutting down the lane, leading to yet another Georgetown layup.

After a Providence three, Monroe drove into the paint and dished off another no-look assist, this one to Freeman.

Providence made a run over the game’s final few minutes, and with less than three minutes left and the lead trimmed to seven, Monroe drew a double team at the elbow and promptly found an open Wright for a layup.

“It seemed like, in their defense, they were kind of standing still,” Monroe said. “So the more movement we had, the more open looks we had, and I just tried to find the open man.”

Up just three with a minute to play, the Hoyas found Monroe ahead of the pack after a Providence miss, and the Georgetown star rocked home an exclamation-point dunk.

With five second-half dimes, Monroe came up short of the triple double, but not for a lack of trying. Eight of his passes that should have ended in easy layups were either dropped or the shot was missed.

“I felt like he had about 15 assists; I look and see eight,” Thompson said.

onroe’s passing gives the Hoyas a dangerous weapon. Lay off him, and the former No. 1-overall recruit can blow by you for a dunk. Cover him too closely and he almost always finds the open man.

“I think just to have a player of that size, to be that skilled, is nice for any coach,” Providence’s Davis said. “You can do a lot of things with him, whether it’s against a zone or against a man. . When you look at versatility, it is something that every coach is looking for – a player with size that can go out and handle the ball, pass the ball and maybe shoot it from three-point range. That gives him the flexibility to do so, and it’s a nice weapon to have.”

Georgetown knows well the opportunities Monroe offers the Hoya offense. Put simply, he makes the team go.

“Everyone has pretty good feel for when to cut and how to cut, and he’ll pass the ball,” Thompson said.

Added Freeman: “He’s a real good passer. We all think he’s a good passer; we try to go inside to him and feed off him, like today when we gave it to him, the defense was standing around and they were paying attention more to him, and that’s how we got most of our open cuts and open layups.”

onroe’s impact was certainly not lost on the Friars.

“He’s good, strong down low, real good – great passer, great passer,” sophomore guard/forward Marshon Brooks said. “He really killed our zone from the top of the key in the second half.”

In Saturday’s post-game press conference, Thompson was asked if Monroe were possibly being a bit too selfless. Would the team benefit more if Monroe was more selfish?

onroe gave his answer with a contorted facial expression, a shake of his head and a goofy grin as his coach stood in front of him at the dais.

Thompson offered his response at the podium.

“He does a terrific job – I’ve said this from the beginning – of understanding when the opportunities are there for him to score,” Thompson said, “and when the opportunities are there for his teammates.”

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