Retrievers face tall task

The Baltimore Sun

RALEIGH, N.C. -- When second-seeded Georgetown studied the scouting reports on UMBC, the Hoyas discovered their NCAA tournament opponent today is an undersized team that can hit three-pointers and doesn't rely on just one or two players to score.

"We know a lot about them. The scouting report is very, very thick," Georgetown center Roy Hibbert said before practice yesterday at the RBC Center for today's first-round game. "They're like a small team. They can really shoot. So we're just going to have to make sure we play really good defense."

When 15th-seeded UMBC studied the Hoyas, it saw ... 7-foot-2 Hibbert.

Of course, Georgetown is about more than Hibbert. There's also 6-8 forward DaJuan Summers from McDonogh School, who averages 11.3 points, second to Hibbert's 13.6. And there's guard Jonathan Wallace, Georgetown's all-time leading three-point shooter.

But it was hard not to see Hibbert's presence everywhere. His imposing frame filled UMBC players' video screens and their thoughts.

Guard Brian Hodges, who played against Hibbert as a kid, smiled when asked how he stopped the center from Adelphi of Prince George's County. "Growing up was mostly in AAU, and I don't think we did stop him, to tell you the truth," said Hodges, from Upper Marlboro.

Said UMBC coach Randy Monroe, who led the team to its first NCAA appearance: "I don't think you can stop [Hibbert] from scoring. We are going to work to try to contain him as best we can to negate probably his touches."

Monroe joked that the Retrievers "plan on having all five players on Hibbert, and I'm going to put my manager in to bite him on the kneecaps."

Told of the joke, Hibbert shook his head slowly and didn't smile. "Well, I think smaller teams are pesky. They always like to run around the post," he said.

If Hibbert seemed somber, that's because the tournament is - in his words - about "business." He opted to return for his senior season after Georgetown fell one win shy of the national championship game last season and is intent on extending his college career in the tournament.

Georgetown lost to Ohio State in last season's national semifinals. The Hoyas are trying to duplicate the Maryland model of 2001 and 2002. The Terrapins advanced to the Final Four in 2001, then won the national championship the next year.

"I want to play a little longer," Hibbert said. "It'd be nice to go out on top and cut down those nets in a couple weeks."

Hibbert said Georgetown has noticed Jay Greene, the 5-8 UMBC guard described by his coach as "the straw that stirs the drink for us."

Greene, second in the nation in assist-to-turnover ratio at 3.5, "can really shoot the ball; he's quick and we're going to have to have a hand in his face to make it tough on him," Hibbert said.

Greene said the Retrievers have discussed the four previous No. 15 seeds to beat No. 2 seeds in the tournament. They've also noted No. 13 Vermont's upset of Syracuse three years ago. "I just think the first thing you can take from that is that it can be done," Greene said. "No one gives you a chance, especially no one else being a 15 seed, but we believe in our team."

The Retrievers brought caps with them to Raleigh with "IOT" on them, as in their motto this season - "It's Our Time."

jeff.barker@baltsun.com

TODAY'S GAME

UMBC (24-8) vs. Georgetown (27-5)

What -- NCAA tournament first-round game

Where -- RBC Center, Raleigh, N.C.

Time -- 2:55 p.m. (approx.)

TV -- Chs. 13, 9

What to watch -- UMBC ably handled the pressure of playing in its first America East Conference cham pionship game, rolling to a 22-point lead and defeating Hartford, 82-65. Now the question is whether the 15th-seeded Retrievers, in their first NCAA tournament, can retain their poise away from home against the second-seeded Hoyas, who went to last season's Final Four ... UMBC is small compared to the Hoyas, who are led by 7-foot-2 Roy Hibbert. But the Retrievers can score. Senior Ray Barbosa is averaging 20.4 points in his past 11 games. Five UMBC players - Barbosa, Brian Hodges, Darryl Pro ctor, Jay Greene and Cavell Johnson - have led the Retrievers in scoring in various games this season ... UMBC takes care of the ball. As of March 17, the Retrievers led the nation in as sist-to-turnover ratio and were sec ond in fewest turnovers at 9.5 per game ... Georgetown has an inside-out game led by Hibbert and senior guard Jonathan Wallace, a walk-on who is one of 39 Hoyas to surpass 1,000 points in his career ... George town's strength is defense. The Hoyas, who won 14 of their past 17 games but lost to Pitt in the Big East tournament final, rank first in the nation in field-goal percentage de fense ... The winner advances to Sun day's second round against tonight's Davidson-Gonzaga winner.

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