Georgetown won its lone national championship 15 years ago by wearing out Houston with defense and depth - coach John Thompson's signature formula for success. Yesterday the Hoyas performed a nearly identical, if less meaningful, encore.
Holding Houston scoreless for the final 3:43 and riding surprise performances from a pair of role players, current coach Craig Esherick and the Hoyas dispatched Houston 83-75 at MCI Center, nearly duplicating the score of the distant title game (84-75).
"I consider that my Christmas present," said Esherick, celebrating Georgetown's fourth straight victory and the Hoyas' first win over a solid, major conference opponent.
The Hoyas (6-3) now have 10 days off before a home game with Coastal Carolina on Dec. 30.
As has become custom this season, yesterday's game was a foul-riddled, turnover-ridden affair. Georgetown had the bodies for such a war of attrition; Houston did not.
Houston guard Gee Gervin (24 points), the son of NBA legend George Gervin, kept the Cougars (5-5) with Georgetown for the first 28 minutes as the teams traded up-tempo scoring bursts. But the pace and intensity of the action was not without cost for the Cougars. The senior slasher picked up his fourth foul challenging Georgetown's Anthony Perry (15 points) for a loose ball with 11:36 remaining and the Hoyas leading 63-62.
With three other starters already benched in foul trouble, second-year Houston coach Clyde Drexler was forced to sit Gervin. The 15-year former NBA stalwart then watched helplessly as a slew of walk-ons and freshman George Williams tried to cope with Georgetown's 10-deep rotation for six seemingly crucial minutes. Surprisingly, at that point Esherick and the Hoyas seemed to do Drexler a favor by slowing the tempo instead of pressing their personnel advantage.
"That really helped us," Drexler said. "For a minute, I was shocked. But I wasn't going to tell anybody. We had four walk-ons on the floor during that stretch, and the slowdown helped them hold their own. . . . Nevertheless, you never question something that worked. He ended up winning the game, so it worked out for him."
It worked because Houston could not find the hoop once its starters returned with 5:19 remaining and Georgetown clinging to a 75-72 lead. It worked because Georgetown freshman Victor Samnick, making his first start, posted a career-high 17 points with a stream of baseline jumpers down the stretch. And it worked because senior co-captain Rhese Gibson, who entered the game averaging just 2.4 points, buried an 18-footer from the baseline to put the Hoyas up 80-75 with 1:25 remaining. …