Ruthie Braunstein/The Hoya Freshman forward Mike Sweetney goes up for two of his 17 points against Rutgers on Wednesday. With the Hoyas slipping into a dangerous late-season slump, co-captain Kevin Braswell knew he would have to be the one to right the ship. So with the game – and possibly the season – on the line in the closing minutes, he was ready for the pressure of having to make four free throws in the last 90 seconds to seal the victory

“I love it,” he said. “If I miss them, I’ve got to deal with Coach Esherick tomorrow . I’ve got the confidence to make those shots.”

Braswell made all four of them to help the Hoyas gut out a badly needed road victory Saturday to end a two-game losing streak and move into a tie for second place in the Big East after a 76-73 win over Rutgers Saturday.

“I was hoping that we would be able to win a close game before the tournament, because we had lost so many close games and I thought our guys were losing confidence,” Head Coach Craig Esherick said. “This is an important win for us.”

After a sloppily played first half in which neither team shot particularly well, Georgetown and Rutgers traded baskets in a tightly played second half that saw 15 lead changes and seven ties.

Freshman power forward Michael Sweetney buried an 18-foot jump shot late in the second half to put the Hoyas ahead for good at 72-70 in front of a raucous sell-out Louis Brown Athletic Center crowd.

“I was kind of nervous a little bit,” Sweetney said. “But coach [Esherick] has had so much pride in me, so I can hit those shots.”

Esherick said that the play did not follow his design exactly. “I wouldn’t have designed a jump shot for Mike, but he made the play,” Esherick said. “I didn’t care if he shot a hook shot from the three-point line as long as he made the shot.”

Sweetney dominated the second half, scoring 11 of his 16 and serving as the Hoyas’ primary offensive option for nearly every possession. Sweetney said he is starting to feel more confident and comfortable on the road in Big East conference play.

“At first it was a new adjustment with the crowds and everything because in high school I didn’t have to deal with that,” Sweetney said. “But now I’m getting adjusted and starting to feel more comfortable.”

Braswell said that Sweetney’s development has been crucial to the Hoyas this season.

“There’s so much that Mike can do for our team, and he’s showing it – he’s leading us in scoring as well as rebounding,” he said. “I think he’s not only the best freshmen in the league, but one of the best freshmen in the country.”

After Sweetney’s shot and Braswell’s first two free throws, Rutgers guard Todd Billet banked a three-pointer to bring the Scarlet Knights within one, after which Rutgers fouled Braswell.

Braswell made both of the foul shots, putting Georgetown ahead by three and giving Rutgers one possession to send the game to overtime.

As Billet drove upcourt, senior guard Anthony Perry knocked the ball from Billet’s hands and Braswell scooped up the loose ball as time ran out.

“The second time he got the ball, I didn’t want it to happen twice,” Perry said. “I’m a senior, and seniors have to make big plays. We’ve got to step up and make big plays.”

Perry finished with 15 points, including three three-point field goals, in 30 minutes. Perry picked up the slack for sophomore guard Demetrius Hunter, who left the game after the first minute with an injured Achilles tendon, and Gerald Riley, who got into early foul trouble. Playing in his home state, Perry said he was happy he was able to put together a good performance in front of his high school coach and friends and family in the audience.

Georgetown was able to turn 20 Rutgers turnovers into 25 points and shot 87.5 percent from the foul line, including 11 of 11 in the second half. Rutgers shot only 64 percent from the foul line and made only 11 points off of 14 Georgetown turnovers.

Braswell led the Hoyas in scoring with 20, 16 of which came in the second half. He also added four assists to his 8-of-8 free-throw shooting.

Sophomore forward Victor Samnick added eight points and strong defense in his 19 minutes of play. Esherick said that he is gaining confidence in Samnick as the season progresses.

“Victor is our defensive stopper,” Esherick said. “What I like to do is if we’re having trouble stopping other post people, I try to put him in the game . Victor ended up going in there and doing such a good job that I had to leave him in.”

The victory gives Georgetown 20 wins for the season and, along with Syracuse’s loss to West Virginia, moved them into a second-place tie behind Notre Dame in the Big East West division. This is the first time since 1996-97 that Georgetown has reached the 20-win plateau, which is also the last time the Hoyas made the NCAA tournament.

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 Box Score vs St. Rutgers

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