Georgetown vs. West Virginia: Hoyas have thrived at unfriendly road environments


John Thompson III’s team has lost three of its last four games at WVU Coliseum. (Jonathan Newton/WASHINGTON POST)
January 6, 2012

The ninth-ranked Georgetown men’s basketball team has encountered its share of road hostility this season, having played and won games at such demanding venues as Louisville’s KFC Yum! Center and Alabama’s Coleman Coliseum.

There also was the Hoyas’ trip to China in August, when what was supposed to be a goodwill tour turned violent during an exhibition game in Beijing. The game included two benches-clearing altercations and ended with Coach John Thompson III pulling his staff and players off the court while having to dodge full bottles of water hurled by rowdy Chinese fans.

Georgetown (13-1, 3-0 Big East) brings its program-record 11-game winning streak into a familiarly contentious arena on Saturday, and while the Hoyas have had a rough go of it recently at WVU Coliseum, their players are undeterred because of their trials overseas and stateside. Georgetown has lost four in a row against the Mountaineers (11-4, 2-1) and three of its past four at the Coliseum.

Thompson said repeatedly following the incident in China the experience would gird his players for inhospitable conditions, and so far he has proved prophetic. Georgetown beat Alabama in its first true road game of the season on Dec. 1, ending the Crimson Tide’s 24-game home win streak. Last week they also dealt Louisville, then ranked No. 4, its first loss at home in 21 games.

The environment at West Virginia is among the most boisterous in the Big East, and at times spectators have overstepped the line between passionate and irresponsible. Last year, for instance, Mountaineers Coach Bob Huggins took to the microphone during a game against arch-rival Pittsburgh after fans tossed T-shirts and bottles onto the court.

The boorish behavior compelled university President James Clements to issue a statement the following day admonishing those who were at fault.

To top things off, beer sales are permitted at the Coliseum, where thousands of underage college students attend games. The school’s board of governors in June approved the measure to allow beer to be sold at football and basketball games but included provisions such as no vendors in the student sections, a limit of two beers per sale and identification required regardless of age.

The Hoyas lost to West Virginia, 81-68, in their last visit there, in March 2010. They haven’t won there since 2007-08, when Patrick Ewing Jr. blocked a shot in the closing seconds to preserve a 58-57 triumph.

The Hoyas are coming off a mettle-testing win against No. 20 Marquette on Wednesday in which they erased a 17-point second-half deficit and escaped, 73-70, at Verizon Center. The difference was junior Hollis Thompson’s three-pointer from the left baseline that rattled around the rim and fell in with 24 seconds to play.

Georgetown shot 63 percent, including 76 percent in the second half, but nearly came undone because of 12 first-half turnovers and 57 percent shooting from the foul line overall. Still, with all their foibles, the Hoyas managed to climb back into the proceedings with defensive resolve and timely scoring.

“We joke about it, but most of the time we have a feeling when we’re down that we’re not going to lose the game,” said senior guard Jason Clark, who scored a game-high 26 points on 9-of-14 shooting. “I think that’s a really good confidence to have when you’re down that you’re going to win the game. I’ve got faith in my players, and they have faith in me that we’re going to win the game.”

Gene Wang is a sports reporter covering multiple beats, including Navy football, the Capitals, Wizards, Nationals, women’s basketball, auto racing, boxing and golf. He also covers Fantasy Football.
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