WASHINGTON (AP)—A slow-starting Roy Hibbert and his Hoyas led William & Mary by a mere two points with less than 10 minutes to play in their opener Saturday.
What did No. 5 Georgetown do to make sure a major upset was out of the question on the day it unveiled a banner marking last season’s Final Four appearance? Put the ball in the hands of its 7-foot-2 center, of course.
Hibbert scored on three consecutive possessions to create a bit of a cushion and finished with 23 points and eight rebounds, leading Georgetown to a 68-53 victory over William & Mary.
“Things were working down in the post, so we went to that,” Hibbert said, “and I had to demonstrate that I’m going to try to score.”
With do-everything forward Jeff Green now in the NBA, Hibbert becomes Georgetown’s No. 1 option for the first time.
“Clearly, he is the focal point, the hub,” coach John Thompson III said. “He’s going to be the hub of everything we’re doing.”
It didn’t look that way at the outset Saturday.
The Big East preseason player of the year didn’t touch the ball on offense until more than 2 minutes into the game. And when he went to the sideline for his first breather about 5 1/2 minutes in, Hibbert had zero field-goal attempts and zero rebounds.
His first shot came midway through the first half, a jumper from the top of the key that rattled in to tie the game at 20.
It was a different story in the second half. On Georgetown’s very first possession, the ball went inside to Hibbert, who scored to make it 37-30.
Then, after David Schneider’s 3-pointer pulled the Tribe within 47-45, Hibbert put the ball in off the glass. Georgetown went back to Hibbert each of the next two times down the floor, also, and his baby hook made it 53-46 with 6 1/2 minutes to go.
Hibbert shot 9-for-11 overall.
“He displayed a great touch inside,” William & Mary coach Tony Shaver said. “You know, once he gets it, you can’t stop him, basically.”
Still, the final score doesn’t indicate how tight this game was. William & Mary led for long stretches in the first half, by as many as five points, and Georgetown only pulled away late.
The Hoyas (1-0) never held a double-digit lead until Jonathan Wallace’s 3-pointer with under 4 1/2 minutes left made it 58-48.
“We went toe-to-toe with them,” Shaver said, “for about 36 minutes.”
Wallace wound up with 15 points, going 4-for-7 on 3s, and Jessie Sapp contributed 18 points, six rebounds and six assists. Add in DaJuan Summers’ 10 points, and Hibbert’s production, and those four starters combined for all but two of the hosts’ points.
Laimis Kisielius led William & Mary (0-1) with 16 points, all in the first half.
“They’re a great defensive ballclub. Physically, they just wear you out,” Shaver said. “I thought he looked exhausted in the second half.”
The Hoyas got off to a sluggish start last season, opening 4-3 with a loss to Old Dominion mixed in, but things turned out pretty well by March—Big East regular-season and tournament championships, then the run to the NCAA semifinals.
Georgetown struggled early against William & Mary, which went 15-15 last season and has lost 29 consecutive games against ranked opponents, a drought that dates to 1977.
William & Mary scored the game’s first five points, then led 28-27 about 5 minutes before halftime. But with Hibbert sitting, Wallace took over, getting a steal that led to Sapp’s 3-pointer, then making a jumper and 3-pointer himself to help the Hoyas take a 35-30 lead at halftime.
Thompson found plenty of things he wasn’t pleased with, including his team’s rebounding and its penchant for taking 3s (9-for-26).
“I told our guys, ‘There is a million and one things that we have to get better at, a million and one things we have to improve on,”’ Thompson said. “We’re not sharp at anything yet. Hopefully we will get there.”