Get inside March Madness with SI.com's Luke Winn in the Tourney Blog, a daily journal of college basketball commentary, on-site reporting and reader-driven discussions.
3/15/2008 08:19:00 PM
Checking in from the final night at Madison Square Garden for the Big East tournament ...
The Georgetown band was out early in the Garden lobby, performing more than an hour before gametime. Eddy Curry sang backup.
Another street shot, from the corner of 33rd Street and 7th Avenue ...
... and Pitt warming up for its fourth game in four days.
A prediction for tonight: After winning by raining threes on Thursday, and by feeding Roy Hibbert on Friday, Georgetown is forced to win the Big East title in yet another style: by out-grinding the Panthers in a low-low-scoring affair.
Postgame update: Well ... that was a little off. Pitt amazingly showed no signs of exhaustion, kept Georgetown's guards under wraps, and may have done enough to lock up a No. 4 seed. More later from the Garden.
Roy Hibbert scored a game- and season-high 25 points.
Karl Walter/Getty Images
NEW YORK -- On Thursday at the Big East tournament, we saw Roy Hibbert, Georgetown's 7-foot-2 giant, reduced to a space-eater on the Hoyas' bench -- essentially no more than a set of long legs for his teammates to avoid tripping over while making their way in and out of their 82-63 win over Villanova. Hibbert had more fouls (five) than points (zero) and rebounds (four) combined, and managed to stay on the floor for just 14 minutes. If there was one thing to worry about after that rout, it was that Georgetown's senior star was a non-factor in one of his final games leading up to his last NCAA tournament.
In the 29 hours between that victory and Friday's 72-55 semifinal win over West Virginia, it seems that a tempest of emotion built up inside the normally low-key Hibbert. He said he did not need his coach, John Thompson III, to say a thing about redeeming himself against West Virginia. Hibbert ignored calls coming in to his cell-phone, and said even the Instant Message he received from Jeff Green, the star of last year's Hoya Final Four run, was unnecessary. It had said, merely, "You know what you need to do."
The task at hand was to show the nation Roy Hibbert In Full. Not just the lumbering big man who had led Georgetown in points (13.1) and rebounds (6.3) this season, but the Roy with a shot of adrenaline and a crazy streak mixed in. The Roy who not only outrebounded the Mountaineers' entire front line (he had 13), but also chose to flex -- in an imitation of the new ESPN barbed-wire commercial, he said -- while coming off the court for a second-half timeout. The Roy who not only scored a season-high 25 points, but celebrated his final basket, an and-one bunny at the 5:05 mark, by strutting toward press row and repeatedly yelling, "I'm a monster!"
When Hibbert stepped to the free-throw line shortly afterward, and thumped his right fist against his chest a few times for good measure, one of the referees approached him with a joking admonishment. "He told me," Hibbert said, "that [the gestures] looked tacky."
Perhaps, but everything else Hibbert did contributed to a stunning exhibition of all-around skill for one of the college game's few true centers. Hibbert scored in nearly every way imaginable on Friday. His first bucket -- "one that set the tone for the game," he said -- came on a follow-up dunk of a missed three-pointer by DaJuan Summers at the 17:56 mark. Less than four minutes later, Hibbert knocked down a three-pointer from the top of the key, not looking the least bit awkward in the process. When West Virginia used a smaller defender to front Hibbert, he caught a lob pass and went up for an easy slam.
After going into halftime with 13 points, Hibbert unveiled the rest of his repertoire in the second 20 minutes. That included scoring on a right-handed hook over Joe Alexander; a layup that was goaltended; and a putback in transition that was a reward for trailing a Jessie Sapp fast-break rather than lingering back on the defensive end.
"I knew he was going to come out hungry," Sapp said of Hibbert, "so we wanted to keep feeding him and feeding him. It wasn't just his scoring [that mattered]. It was his rebounds and his energy. We fed off him today -- and we need him in a game like that for us to be successful throughout the rest of the season."
Louisville coach Rick Pitino recently called the Hoyas "lucky" because they won close (and often controversial) games over Villanova, West Virginia, Marquette and Louisville to clinch the conference's regular-season title. ("God bless them," said Pitino. "They're closer to heaven than we are.") And therefore "luck" has become a media buzzword here at the Big East tournament, with every Georgetown player getting peppered with questions about it, and Big John Thompsonusing "we were lucky" as a refrain in his postgame interactions with the Hoyas.
This mini-controversy has obscured the fact that Georgetown has managed to win two games in New York in two incredibly disparate ways, first beating Villanova on a hailstorm of 17 threes and then beating West Virginia by riding Big Roy.
Senior guard Jonathan Wallace, who had five treys on Thursday and three more on Friday, said it "doesn't matter" whether opposing defenses choose to pack down on Hibbert or attempt to challenge shots on the perimeter. The option he prefers as Georgetown makes its run at a second straight Final Four, though, is to win with Hibbert as the focal point. "It creates a more balanced game," said Wallace. "We didn't shoot as many threes [against WVU] as we did against Villanova, but Roy was really anchored down in the middle, which allowed guys to still get a lot of open looks. [His breakout] came at the right time."
After Hibbert sat at the podium for the postgame press conference and explained what he had yelled -- the "I'm a monster" line -- Thompson III leaned over, with a faux-incredulous look on his face, and used the back of his left hand to act like he was taking Hibbert's temperature. If this is what a fever does to Big Roy, Georgetown best pray it turns into a month-long illness.