For one brief moment on Tuesday night, the Georgetown Hoyas could forget about this disappointing season. Old Big East rival West Virginia was in town. The action shifted to where it ideally belongs, on campus at tiny McDonough Gymnasium. Students and fans tailgated outside and brought their energy inside, making constant noise and heckling everybody from West Virginia Coach Bob Huggins to ESPN analyst Dan Dakich, who had earlier this season earned the enmity of Hoya fans by bizarrely trashing Josh Smith. On the court, the Hoya offense exploded in the second half to polish off the Mountaineers 77-65.
The Hoyas were not particularly impressive in the first half, and went into the locker room trailing 33-30. For much of the opening half the game seemed to be a battle between the point guards, and West Virginia’s Juwan Staten (23 points, 7 assists, 9-13 FG) badly outplayed Georgetown’s Markel Starks (14 points, 4-17 FG, 7 rebounds, 7 assists). Staten was able get to the basket at will, while Starks responded by forcing up multiple bad shots.
The entire Hoya offense seemed stalled by Starks’s shot selection adventures. Other than a circus baby hook by Nate Lubick and uncharacteristically slick post move by Moses Ayegba, the Hoya frontcourt didn’t do very much.
Georgetown stayed in the game defensively by shutting down everybody but Staten. If Staten wasn’t driving, the Mountaineers settled for long, bad threes. Terry Henderson (13 points) hit 3-5, but the rest of the team managed just 3 for 16. Remi Dibo (11 points, 0-7 3FG) and Eron Harris (10 points, 2-7 3FG) were especially futile.
In the second half, the Hoyas started smoking offensively. The Georgetown attack was led by a strong performance by D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera (32 points, 10 rebounds, 9-17 FG, 10-10 FT). As he has consistently throughout the second half of the year, Jabril Trawick was effective offensively as well, garnering 12 points on 4 of 8 from the field and dishing out five assists.
The entire team seemed to step things up in the second half. Defensively, they did a much better job on Staten while continuing to force the rest of the Mountaineers into suboptimal long range shots. Even embattled Mikael Hopkins, finishing strong on a key bucket early in the second half, making a spectacular block, and sinking all four of his free throws.
The most notable statistic offensively for Georgetown in this game was their relatively low eight turnovers. Combined with a strong 7-19 performance from three point range, as well as 10 offensive rebounds, it made for a very efficient performance of 1.2 points per possession against the weak Mountaineer defense.
Defensively, Georgetown continued to struggle with giving up easy baskets inside, allowing the Mountaineers to shoot an uncharacteristically high 57.1% on two points shots in this game. Fortunately for Georgetown, the normally stingy West Virginia offense also turned it over 12 times, including eight Hoya steals that led to easy transition opportunities. Georgetown also controlled its season long foul trouble, committing 21 to West Virginia’s 27 and shooting 24-30 from the line compared to West Virginia’s 15-24. Had the turnovers and fouls occurred at their seasonal norms, Georgetown may very well have succumbed to West Virginia’s strong inside shooting.
Coach John Thompson III ran a very short rotation in this game, playing only Ayegba and Aaron Bowen off the bench. Freshman Reggie Cameron did not play, even when the game was over in the last four minutes.
West Virginia ends the season 17-16, a far cry from their Final Four season but also a big improvement over last year. The Mountaineers will return everybody next year and have a very good chance of getting back to the NCAA Tournament.
Georgetown will head to Tallahassee on Monday to play Florida State. I thought the Seminoles should have made the NCAA Tournament this year, and playing them on the road should prove a much sterner test than tonight’s game. Georgetown defeated only DePaul and Butler on the road this year, and it would certainly be a confidence builder for next season to get a decent road victory.
Tonight’s game was a fun distraction for Georgetown fans, and even though the NIT by definition comes with a helping of disappointment, it sure beats nothing.