By Liz Clarke
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 23, 2009
After suffering losses to top 15 teams in three of its last five games, the Georgetown men's basketball team returned to Verizon Center last night in search of a sorely needed victory and a jolt of confidence.
And with unranked West Virginia on tap, there was reason to believe the homecoming would result in both.
Instead, the Hoyas ran headlong into sharpshooting Mountaineers forward Da'Sean Butler and a short, squat guard nicknamed "Truck." Led by the pair's combined 40 points, West Virginia plowed right over the 12th-ranked Hoyas for a 75-58 upset in front of a disbelieving crowd of 12,875.
While Butler deserved kudos for eluding Georgetown's defenders, the Hoyas did themselves in with a rash of turnovers and an inability to rebound the ball.
The final statistics provided a diagnosis of what ails the Hoyas (12-5, 3-3 Big East). They committed 19 turnovers, were outrebounded 39-31 and made just 2 of 16 three-point attempts. Meantime, Georgetown allowed West Virginia (14-4, 3-2) to shoot 48.4 percent, compared with its own 39.2 percent shooting.
Butler led all scorers with 27 points, and Darryl "Truck" Bryant added 13.
Coach John Thompson III, who tends to shy away from instantaneous analysis, said he felt his team's troubles started on the offensive end and bled over to its normally reliable defense.
"We went through a stretch where the ball just didn't go in, and things snowballed after that," Thompson said. "Our poor defensive effort was a function of us being frustrated by the ball not going in.
"Today was a blip. Today is not the norm."
Blip or not, it was a humbling defeat for a team that didn't need further humbling.
While the Hoyas could salvage some measure of pride in their previous losses to Pittsburgh, Notre Dame and Duke (respectively ranked No. 3, No. 13 and No. 3 at the time), there was no solace in getting out-hustled by a smaller, scrappier West Virginia squad.
The Mountaineers start a 6-foot-7 center and don't have a McDonald's all-American on their roster. Georgetown, by contrast, starts a 6-11 center, a 6-8 power forward and three McDonald's all-Americans.
But poise and grit mattered more on this night, and West Virginia had the bulk of it. Acutely aware of what they lacked in height and physical presence, the Mountaineers compensated with effort, battling for loose balls and crashing the boards.
"We have to rebound the ball," said Coach Bob Huggins, in his second season at West Virginia. "We don't have a center who can step out and make threes. We don't have a power forward who can step out and make threes."
Last night, Georgetown didn't either, largely because the Mountaineers limited the Hoyas' ability to feed the ball to center Greg Monroe and frustrated top scorer DaJuan Summers, who made just 1 of 7 three-point attempts.
Sophomore guard Chris Wright paced the Hoyas with 13 points. Summers added 12 and Monroe scored 11.
All three started the game strong. But after bolting to a 9-2 lead, the Hoyas saw their fortunes shift quickly.
Soon after guard Jessie Sapp made his first three-pointer since the Jan. 5 loss at Notre Dame, Thompson sent him to the bench in favor of freshman Jason Clark. Monroe also sat after drawing an early foul and was replaced by sophomore Julian Vaughn.
But Clark and Vaughn combined to turn over the ball four times after entering the game, and the Mountaineers took swift advantage.
Butler gave West Virginia its first lead with a three-pointer that made it 12-11 with 12 minutes 18 seconds left in the first half. Then, with the score knotted at 22 about seven minutes later, the Mountaineers went on a 9-0 run. Georgetown spent the rest of the night playing from behind.
With the Hoyas trailing 42-33 early in the second half, Summers stormed to the basket to attempt a massive dunk. The ball rimmed out, but he converted two free throws after the foul that followed. Wright and Monroe then converted three-point plays of their own, and Omar Wattad's layup with 11:49 left cut West Virginia's lead to 45-43.
But the Hoyas wouldn't get any closer. Georgetown missed three consecutive three-pointers and a layup on the possessions that followed, and West Virginia went on a 12-3 run that sapped what fight remained in the Hoyas.