By Camille Powell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, February 13, 2006
For the first 20 minutes of Georgetown's game with ninth-ranked West Virginia last night, the Hoyas looked like the sharp, efficient team that knocked off two top-10 teams and won seven straight games. But a dismal second-half performance, in which they scored only 19 points, cost the 15th-ranked Hoyas. West Virginia left with a 69-56 victory in front of a raucous MCI Center crowd of 16,263 that seemed to have a good deal of gold mixed in with the gray. It was the Hoyas' first loss at home since Nov. 26, when they fell to Vanderbilt.
Georgetown (17-5, 8-3 Big East) will travel to Marquette (16-8, 6-5) on Thursday and to fourth-ranked Villanova (19-2, 9-1) on Sunday.
The Hoyas shot nearly 60 percent in the first half as they built an 11-point lead. But they went cold in the second half, shooting just 24 percent, and had no offense outside of sophomore forward Jeff Green. Green scored 14 of the Hoyas' 19 second-half points as his teammates made 2 of 23 shots. He finished with 21 points and 10 rebounds.
The Mountaineers, meantime, shot 62 percent in the second half, mainly because they got high-percentage shots off of drives. West Virginia senior Kevin Pittsnogle, who missed all 12 shots he attempted in a loss at Pittsburgh on Thursday, scored a game-high 25 points on 10-for-15 shooting.
"We did not play our best ball in the second half," Georgetown Coach John Thompson III said. "We're a better team than that. We've had a run here where we've looked pretty good, and now we've got to bounce back."
Georgetown's players felt that they let a game slip away when they lost, 68-61, in Morgantown in early January. The Hoyas led by double digits in the first half, but a poor stretch that spanned the end of the first half and the start of the second half did them in. Georgetown didn't match the Mountaineers' intensity at key moments in that game. That wasn't the problem last night; the Hoyas' execution was.
"We played hard. We could have executed a lot better," Thompson said. "The overall effort, the overall intensity was there. For us to be successful, I've said to this group from day one, we have to play hard, we have to play smart, we have to play together. We could've played a little smarter at key times."
Georgetown led 37-29 following an entertaining, well-played first half. The two teams combined for just five fouls and eight turnovers in the first 20 minutes, while handing out 22 assists on 28 field goals.
The Mountaineers, who shot a miserable 22 percent from three-point range at Pittsburgh, made four of their first six shots from beyond the arc and built a 20-13 lead with 12 minutes 9 seconds left until halftime. But Georgetown went on a 20-2 run over the next eight minutes to take a 33-22 advantage with 4:13 until the break.
The Hoyas were sharp during that stretch. When they got open looks from beyond the arc, they made them (4 of 6 in that span). Defensively, Green blocked two shots and dove on the floor near midcourt to corral a loose ball, and Brandon Bowman and Darrel Owens each started a fast break with a steal and ended it with a reverse dunk.
"I sat there in the first half and my head was spinning," said West Virginia Coach John Beilein, whose team is 18-5 and 9-1 in the Big East. "They were playing so well and we didn't have answers. I just said, 'Now I know why they beat Duke.' In the second half, they missed some pretty good shots and all of a sudden the momentum began to turn."
Georgetown opened the second half with center Roy Hibbert missing a shot inside and Bowman failing to score off of a drive. The Hoyas didn't score until nearly five minutes had elapsed, and by that time, West Virginia had wiped out its deficit. The Mountaineers scored the first 10 points of the half, essentially taking the ball right at the Hoyas and beating them one-on-one. West Virginia took the lead on a pair of free throws from Pittsnogle with 15:28 to play -- the first free throws of the game.
A dunk from Green brought the Hoyas to within 54-51 with six minutes to play, but Georgetown didn't score for the next five minutes. The Hoyas settled for three-point shots and were off (2 for 14 in the half). Bowman, who made 6 of 7 shots and scored 13 points in the first half, missed a couple of layups and didn't score until the game was out of reach. Green missed four straight free throws.
And as the Hoyas found out, the margin for error against the senior-laden, battle-tested Mountaineers is very slim.
"You've got to try to do everything perfect," Green said. "There are so many things we didn't do perfect. That kind of made them get a little confident and they started banging their shots. . . . They just get the job done."