Rutgers 66, Georgetown 59
-- Each game it seems Georgetown finds that the elevator of its season goes down another floor, with the once-unthinkable possibility of missing the Big East tournament inching toward reality as the Hoyas fell, 66-59, to Rutgers tonight.
The loss was Georgetown's sixth in a row and its eighth in nine games, and leaves the Hoyas (10-10, 2-7) in sole possession of last place in the Big East's West Division, a spot that does not qualify for the league tournament.
"If this wasn't how I make my living it would be funny, the different ways we figure out to lose ballgames at the end," said Georgetown Coach Craig Esherick, whose Hoyas have lost nine games by 10 points or less, including four in the recent stretch that have been decided by one point or in overtime.
"We knew how important this game was coming in," said Hoyas center Mike Sweetney, who scored 22 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. "This puts us in a position where we have to fight to get into the tournament. We shouldn't have to be in this position."
Rutgers (11-10, 3-6) trailed for much of the game, but took a 58-57 lead on a free throw by Kareem Wright with 2 minutes 15 seconds remaining. Georgetown forward Victor Samnick lost the ball along the baseline during the Hoyas' next possession, but they nearly recovered after Gerald Riley slapped the ball from Rutgers guard Jerome Coleman at the three-point line.
But Scarlet Knights guard Mike Sherrod emerged from the scramble with the ball and found Coleman, who sank an off-balance jumper as the shot clock expired for a 60-57 lead.
"That's something that has happened to us at the wrong time [throughout the losing streak]," said Riley, who scored 19 points.
Rutgers has beaten Georgetown here in three of the past four seasons, never with a team that finished better than .500 in Big East play. And even if the less-than-capacity Louis Brown Athletic Center crowd of 6,831 did not live up to its usual raucous standard, the Hoyas continued their road woes, moving to 0-7 away from home, with no dramatic changes from the teams' first meeting, a 76-66 Georgetown victory Jan. 20 at MCI Center.
"I don't know what to tell you," Esherick said. "I really don't know what it is."
Sweetney took over for stretches, scoring nine points over six possessions in the first half, and then opened the second with a layup and a dunk that erased Rutgers' 27-23 halftime lead. But most of Georgetown's offense consisted of free throws -- the Hoyas made 25 of 37 attempts -- and Riley's playmaking. Riley made 6 of 10 shots, including 2 of 4 three-pointers.
Other than Sweetney and Riley -- who combined to make 13 of 26 shots -- the rest of the Hoyas made 3 of 21 attempts. Tony Bethel missed all five of his three-point shots, and Esherick said his team needs another consistent outside option to win tight games.
"We need to have more than just one person to make shots on the perimeter," Esherick said.
Sweetney was held to one field goal over the final 11 minutes, double-teamed more aggressively down the stretch, and just two attempts over the final eight.
"Sweetney is a player," Rutgers Coach Gary Waters said. "You have to have as many guys around him as you can. I think we did a good job on him. He earned every basket he got."
Rutgers used a combination of Herve Lamizana and Sean Axani, the starting frontcourt, and reserves Wright and Adrian Hill against Sweetney. Hill, in seven minutes, perhaps had the greatest effectiveness, scoring six points, grabbing three rebounds and picking up three fouls.
Wright, a 6-foot-9, 270-pound senior, was the only player who could match up physically with the 6-8, 260-pound Sweetney. But after muscling in for back-to-back layups that tied the game at 41 with 10 minutes left, he picked up his fourth foul defending a Bethel drive. That left the 6-8, 235-pound Axani to deal with Sweetney, with occasional help from guard Mike Sherrod. Rutgers found strength in numbers.
"There were two and three guys coming at me every time," Sweetney said. "It was almost impossible to get a shot off."