Result: Georgetown, 68-58 in 60 possessions
Seminal Play: With Georgetown trailing 41-38 and six minutes gone by in the second half, Hoyas senior forward Patrick Ewing stole the ball from Jeff Xavier, and seconds later grabbed the offensive rebound after a missed layup by teammate Tyler Crawford. That extended possession led to guard Jonathan Wallace's three-pointer to tie the game, part of a 17-2 Hoyas run that put Georgetown in total command.
Quotable: "Their size just banged us around at important moments of the game. You get a stop [after] 28 seconds, they get the rebound and you gotta play defense for another 20 seconds. It's like the football team that's on the field for a long drive—after a certain period of time you just wear out."
—Providence coach Tim Welsh, on Georgetown's ability to grind his team down with offensive rebounding and its characteristic methodical Princeton offense.
The Big Picture: The Hoyas put their faltering offense back on track, definitively showed that they can leverage their height into a strong offensive rebounding performance, and also got the ball to star center Roy Hibbert enough for him to amass a career-high in shot attempts—perhaps the best sign for the team's chances in the postseason.
PROVIDENCE, R.I.—With outstanding work on the offensive glass and a highly-efficient second half, Georgetown dispelled the stagnation that had crept into its offense lately to beat Providence 68-58 Monday evening at the Dunkin' Donuts Center.
The Hoyas came into the game having averaged under a point per possession in their last five, two of which they lost to fall into a tie at the top of the Big East with Louisville, and the team's offense overall this season has been much more difficult to come by than last. But after trailing by one at halftime, Georgetown scored 39 points in 29 second-half possessions, a 1.34 points per trip pace, to erase a six-point deficit early in the latter period and breeze past a struggling Providence squad.
While the Hoyas rank in the bottom quarter of the 16-team Big East in offensive rebounding percentage, Georgetown snapped up 23 offensive rebounds, or 52 percent of its own misses, the team's second highest total of the season. The Hoyas also held a good offensive rebounding Providence team to just six offensive boards. Overall, Georgetown outscored the Friars by 27-1 on second-chance opportunities.
“They won the game because they got 18 more attempts at the basket, and that's plain and simple, period,” Providence coach Tim Welsh said. “You can't give a great team like Georgetown that many opportunities. They took 65 shots, we took 47—it's deflating to your defense.”
Most importantly for Georgetown besides its surprising surge on the offensive glass was the assertiveness displayed by senior Roy Hibbert. The 7'2 center came into the game averaging only 8.3 attempts per contest, a figure which has drawn questioning. But Hibbert shot a career-high 15 times, and converted on nine of those for a team-high 18 points. Hibbert was able to get six second-chance points off of his four offensive rebounds, and his teammates also frequently looked for him in the post against the smaller Friars' frontline.
“It's important that Roy gets the ball, and our guys realize that,” Georgetown coach John Thompson III said. “Roy has done a pretty good job of making decisions, in terms of when do I have a shot and when don't I have a shot, and today he had a lot. Throwing it in [to Hibbert] is paramount, and then Roy makes decisions—he believes in his teammates, so he's quick to throw it back out to open guys.”
It was not the interior game, however, but Georgetown's three-point attack that turned the game around. After a Hibbert layup gave the Hoyas a 35-34 lead almost three minutes into the second period, Providence ran off a quick 7-0 run, started by a dunk from forward Geoff McDermott and finished by guard Weyinmi Efejuku's three-pointer that made it 41-35 with 15:51 to play. Two minutes without scoring followed, and then the Hoyas launched a long-range barrage, getting three-pointers on five of their next six possessions, the middle three coming from senior point guard Jonathan Wallace.
“Those threes came off of my teammates setting the screen and knowing what type of play to run against their zone to get a shot in the area in which we practiced,” Wallace said.
With the three-pointers, sandwiched around a Hibbert tip-in and Providence turnovers on four of five possessions, the Hoyas scored on six straight trips and reeled off a 17-2 run that gave Georgetown a 52-43 lead with 9:24 to play. The Friars did not get any closer than within five the rest of the way, and Georgetown pushed its lead to as many as 13 points in the final three minutes.
Senior forward Patrick Ewing, Jr. was a critical part of the big run. He stole the ball and then grabbed an offensive rebound to set up its opening salvo, a three-pointer by guard Tyler Crawford, and then did the exact same thing to set up the next three by Wallace which tied the game. Ewing scored only five points, but had six rebounds and team-highs of four assists and three steals.
“Rebounding has been stressed a lot in our practices, and a lot of people were killing us on the boards earlier in the season. From the jump today [offensive rebounds] just seemed to be there,” Ewing said. “We continued to crash the offensive glass and continued to get second shot after second shot.”
Having been bested by Syracuse's zone defense in Saturday's road loss and befuddled by the Friars' two-three variety for much of the first half, in which Georgetown put up a 39 eFG%, the Hoyas finally cracked through late in the game. Overall, Georgetown scored 33 points in its final 20 possessions to blow past Providence and break a two-game road losing streak.
The Friars played without starting guard Dwain Williams, who sat due to a sprained ankle suffered in Saturday's loss to Louisville. Providence lost despite the best efforts of Efejuku, who scored a game-high 25 points on 8-of-12 from the field and 5-of-6 from three-point range. The Friars' leading scorer, guard Jeff Xavier, was held to three points on 1-of-4 shooting, while McDermott took only three shots and scored four. Wallace finished with 14 on 4-of-8 from three-point range for Georgetown, and Hibbert added eight rebounds and a career-high-tying six blocks in addition to his 18 points.
Providence, which has now lost back-to-back home games against the Big East's elite in which it led at halftime, plays next at West Virginia on Saturday. Georgetown returns to Washington on Saturday to play Cincinnati, the first of two relatively easy home games (the second is against St. John's) before it closes the regular season versus Marquette and Louisville .
Caleb Peiffer is a contributor to Basketball Prospectus. He can be reached here.