By Camille Powell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, January 12, 2006
MORGANTOWN, W.Va., Jan. 11 -- Georgetown's game against 16th-ranked West Virginia on Wednesday night presented a golden opportunity for a team that is trying to carve an identity in a crowded 16-team conference. It was a chance for the Hoyas to take sole possession of first place in the Big East after three league games; it was a chance to earn a defining victory on the road against a ranked opponent -- one against whom they have traditionally played well.
But Georgetown was left disappointed and frustrated following a 68-61 loss to the Mountaineers in front of 12,116 at WVU Coliseum. The defeat ended a seven-game winning streak for the Hoyas, and dropped them to 10-3, 2-1 in the Big East.
"It's early. We're only three games into our conference season," said Georgetown Coach John Thompson III, whose team will play fourth-ranked Connecticut (13-1, 1-1) on Saturday in Hartford. "We just have to keep plugging and bounce back."
Georgetown won the last meeting between the teams, 67-60, on Feb. 12, 2005, but since then, the Mountaineers have won 21 of 27 games and nearly advanced to the Final Four. They sit in first place in the Big East with a 3-0 record, 11-3 overall.
Seniors Mike Gansey and Kevin Pittsnogle were two of the heroes during West Virginia's surprising run to the NCAA regional finals last season, and each one tormented the Hoyas in his own way.
Gansey -- memorable for the baggy T-shirt he wears under his jersey and his full-throttle intensity -- had 15 points, 10 rebounds (five offensive) and 4 assists. He scored six points on layups off hard cuts, and he drew at least three fouls as the Hoyas tried to keep him off the offensive glass (Ashanti Cook sent him tumbling into the stands while trying to box him out in the first half -- a play that did not draw a whistle).
"He's a player in every sense of the word," Thompson said of the 6-foot-4 Gansey. "He epitomizes their toughness."
Pittsnogle, the heavily tattooed 6-11 center, had a game-high 23 points and nine rebounds. He displayed the long-range shooting ability that turned him into a cult hero during the tournament (3 of 8 from three-point range), but also was effective when the Mountaineers found him inside.
Georgetown didn't get the same kind of production from its three seniors: Cook, Brandon Bowman and Darrel Owens combined for 14 points on 7-of-20 shooting, accounted for six of the team's 11 turnovers, and were called for an intentional foul (Cook) and technical foul (Owens, just moments after he fouled out of the game). The Hoyas were led by their inside tandem of forward Jeff Green (17 points and nine rebounds) and 7-foot-2 center Roy Hibbert (16 points in 25 minutes). Guard Jonathan Wallace added 12 points and four assists.
West Virginia is a tricky team to play against because of its unusual defense (a trapping 1-3-1 zone) and its Princeton-style motion offense (which is similar to what the Hoyas run). The Mountaineers, who had 20 assists on 23 field goals, are especially difficult to guard when they're patient and they move the ball.
But in the first half, the Mountaineers settled for three-pointers early in their possessions -- 19 of their 31 shots came from beyond the arc, and they made only three of them (15.8 percent) -- and Georgetown, which was more balanced on offense, led by 11 points. But Pittsnogle and Gansey scored nine straight points in the final three minutes of the half to cut the Hoyas' lead to 23-21.
Georgetown turned over the ball on its first three possessions of the second half, and the Mountaineers took advantage. Frank Young scored an easy basket off of a feed from Gansey to tie the score at 23, and his fast-break layup gave West Virginia its first lead, 25-23.
West Virginia shot 50 percent from three-point range (7 for 14) in the second half.
"They're a good shooting team," Thompson said. "They have some guys that can make shots. They have a pretty good offense with good spacing. I told our guys going in, they're going to get shots, and they're going to go in. That's how they do things. You're not going to shut that out."