By Camille Powell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
Shortly after 14th-ranked Georgetown picked apart No. 23 West Virginia, dominating at both ends of the floor in a 71-53 victory last night, Mountaineers Coach John Beilein said that he couldn't wait to get back to Morgantown and watch the tape of the game. He said that he wanted to learn something from the way that the Hoyas played in front of 14,203 at Verizon Center.
"That was one impressive Georgetown team tonight," said Beilein, whose team upset then-No. 2 UCLA on Saturday. "It was a clinic."
The Hoyas were sharp both offensively and defensively, as they won their eighth straight game. The last time Georgetown won that many conference games in a row was the 1988-89 season, when it swept the Big East regular season and tournament titles. The Hoyas (19-5, 9-2) still have some work to do to equal that, but their victory, coupled with Louisville's surprising 66-53 win at No. 7 Pittsburgh (22-4, 10-2), means that the Hoyas and Panthers are tied in the loss column atop the Big East standings.
Georgetown Coach John Thompson III, who tries to sidestep every big-picture question, said that he just hopes his team qualifies for the 12-team conference tournament. He was just happy that the Hoyas survived a difficult three-game stretch.
"This was a stretch that had me scared when the schedule came out," Thompson said. "We had Louisville, at Louisville, then Marquette here with the whole 100th [anniversary celebration] -- that's nothing but a big setup -- and three games in six days ends with a West Virginia team that's tough because they're unorthodox."
West Virginia, which lost five core players from its back-to-back NCAA tournament teams, was picked to finish 12th in the preseason coaches' poll. Instead, the Mountaineers (19-6, 7-5) have been one of the surprises of the league, and came in fighting for one of the top four spots in the league (the top four teams receive first-round byes in the Big East tournament). But they were outmatched from the start.
Junior center Roy Hibbert didn't dominate in the same way he did against Louisville and Marquette -- he had 43 points and 22 rebounds in the two wins and was named Big East player of the week -- but he still scored 20 points (12 of which came off of free throws) and had six rebounds in just 22 minutes. Forward Jeff Green added 15 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists, and guard Jonathan Wallace scored 14 points and had five rebounds and two steals, leading Beilein to liken the Hoyas to a great baseball team that's "tough up the middle."
A typically understated Green simply said: "Everybody was hitting all cylinders. That's what we need."
Georgetown played one of its most complete halves of the season in the opening 20 minutes, as it built a 37-20 halftime advantage. The Hoyas were remarkably efficient on offense, making 15 of 19 shots (78.9 percent), and 11 of the baskets came off of assists. They scored off of hard cuts through the West Virginia zone, and they took just four three-point shots, making two. The only blemish was their 10 turnovers, many of which came as the result of poor passes against the top of the Mountaineers' trap.
But as impressive as the Hoyas were on offense, they were even better on the defensive end. The Mountaineers, who are normally one of the Big East's better shooting teams (45.7 percent), shot just 29.6 percent (8 for 27), because Georgetown gave them so few clean looks at the basket. The Hoyas made a point of switching on every screen, because nearly every Mountaineer is willing to take -- and make -- three-point shots.
"We had seen that a little bit, but I think the team was Citadel. It was a different situation," Beilein said. "By the time we were making adjustments in the second half to what they were doing, it wasn't a ballgame anymore."
The Hoyas used a 17-0 run midway through the first half to break open the game. In that span, Hibbert blocked a shot, Wallace stole a pass, and Green drew a charge; the Mountaineers often settled for three-point shots and the Hoyas were able to run down the rebounds. West Virginia didn't reach double digits in points until 6 minutes 35 seconds remained in the first half.
"Now I know how Mike Brey feels," said Beilein, referring to the Notre Dame coach, who also brought a ranked team to Verizon Center and then struggled. The Fighting Irish needed 16 minutes to reach the 10-point barrier. "They're a great defensive team."