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Senior guard Jessie Sapp

With 51 seconds to play, the Georgetown student section chanted in unison: “Greg Monroe! Greg Monroe!”

Although the freshman center was only the Hoyas’ third-leading scorer with 13 points, it was clear to everyone in the building that he was the player of the game. He dished out eight assists, grabbed 11 rebounds, and snagged five steals to lead Georgetown to an 82-75 win over Providence at Verizon Center on Saturday.

“[Monroe] does a terrific job of understanding when the opportunities are there for him to score and when the opportunities are there for his teammates,” Georgetown Head Coach John Thompson III said after the game.

The victory improves Georgetown’s record to 11-3 overall and 2-2 in Big East play, while Providence moves to 11-5 overall and 3-1 in conference games.

Georgetown looked like a different team than the one that took the court against Pittsburgh a week ago. Whereas the Panthers outrebounded the Hoyas 48-23, this time Georgetown dominated the glass, winning the rebounding battle 41-29.

“I think our guys are doing a better job of making a better effort of pursuing the ball,” Thompson said. “We didn’t do anything magical, but I think our guys are more focused on pursuing the ball, coming up with the ball.”

The Hoyas got off to a slow start in the game. They looked sloppy on the offensive end in the early going and trailed 35-27 with 2:25 to play in the first half. However, a late Georgetown run cut the deficit to 36-33 going into the locker room.

Thompson said the Hoyas struggled early in the game because they were not running the offense through Monroe. In fact, Monroe did not attempt his first field goal until 1:04 remained in the first half.

“In the first ten minutes or so, we didn’t get [Monroe] the ball enough. Once we started getting him the ball, we started getting real easy shots,” Thompson said.

In the second half, Monroe seemingly found one cutter after another around the basket, setting up easy layups for Georgetown. Sophomore guards Austin Freeman and Chris Wright were often the recipients of Monroe passes and ended up scoring 18 points and 16 points, respectively.

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

The Hoyas took the lead for good five minutes into the second half on a three pointer by freshman guard Jason Clark. A jumper by Freeman pushed the Georgetown lead to 16 points with 7:52 remaining, but the Hoyas were unable to put the Friars away. Led by sophomore guard Marshon Brooks, who scored a team-high 18 points, Providence cut the Georgetown lead to 76-73 with 1:18 left in the game.

A critical sequence then ensued. Friar senior guard Weyinmi Efejuku stole the ball from Wright and dribbled toward the hoop with an opportunity to put Providence within one point. But he missed the layup and Wright grabbed the rebound. Wright then launched the ball across the court to a wide open Monroe, who dunked it to give Georgetown a five-point lead. On their next possession, the Friars immediately turned the ball over, allowing Georgetown to cruise to the victory from that point forward.

Providence Head Coach Keno Davis said that the Hoyas’ execution on offense was the main reason they won the game.

“We played zone defense the whole game, and they exploited it,” Davis said.

He said that Monroe was a key part of Georgetown’s success on the offensive end.

“I think just to have a player of that size, to be that skilled, is nice for any coach,” he said.

In addition to Georgetown’s improvement on the boards, Thompson said he was pleased with the team’s bench play in the game. He said that Clark, who tied his career high with 10 points, and freshman center Henry Sims, who added five points, made valuable contributions off the bench.

“I stood here a month ago and talked about the disparity between our first group and our second group,” Thompson said. “That gap is much, much smaller now and a lot of it is because of not just their comfort level, but their confidence, and everyone else’s confidence in them.”

Although the Hoyas turned the ball over 18 times and missed a number of open layups, they managed to hold on for the win and get back to .500 in league play. The Hoyas continue their difficult schedule on Wednesday when they take on Syracuse at Verizon Center.

Tipoff is set for 7:30 p.m. and the game will be televised on ESPN2.

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