Slowly but surely, the Georgetown men’s basketball team managed another win.

The No. 10 Hoyas overcame a tentative start to defeat non-conference foe UNLV 79-62 last night at MCI Center, rebounding from last weekend’s ugly 70-66 loss to Pittsburgh.

Georgetown began the game on shaky footing, missing its first seven shots and allowing UNLV to take an early lead. The first few minutes of the contest saw the Hoyas scrambling to find their game on either side of the court. But an aggressive effort off the bench from sophomore center Wesley Wilson energized the Hoyas and gave them the offensive lift they needed.

Wilson hit two key jumpers almost five minutes into the game to jump-start the Hoya offense. The Hoyas continued to trail the Rebels until senior forward Anthony Perry came off the bench to hit a three that gave Georgetown a 22-21 lead, the Hoyas’ first of the day. The rest of the half was a duel for the lead, with each team answering shot for shot.

But with two minutes left in the first half, freshman forward ike Sweetney hit a jumper to put Georgetown up 34-33, giving the Hoyas a lead they never relinquished. Senior center Ruben Boumtje-Boumtje hit a short jumper with 23.4 seconds left that put the Hoyas up 41-35 and when UNLV guard Trevor Diggs missed a three-pointer at the buzzer, it gave Georgetown both a tangible and psychological edge going into the half.

Georgetown picked up the pace in the second half, finally finding its rhythm both offensively and defensively. Freshman forward Gerald Riley made up for his 1 of 4 performance in the first half with a quick jumper followed by a three-pointer to put the Hoyas up 46-35 in the early minutes of the second half.

“Gerald gave us a huge start in the second half – hit a big three, had a drive to the basket, got us up by 10,” Head Coach Craig Esherick said.

Georgetown’s offense clicked in the second half, going 12 for 26 for a 46.2 shooting percentage, improving from 38.9 percent in the first half. Also in the second half, the Hoyas defense improved, providing near seamless protection around the perimeter and preventing the Rebels from penetrating to the basket. Even with the open shot, the Rebels found themselves struggling in the second half, shooting just 10 of 35.

Looking winded and worn down, the Rebels ran into trouble in the second half, accruing fouls and an ankle injury to forward Dalron Johnson, their leading scorer with 14.

But Wilson deserves the credit for much of the Hoya offense last night – he started it and he put an end to it. With 12 seconds left in the game and the win already firmly on the Hoyas’ side, Wilson had a spectacular dunk that brought the crowd to its feet and the game effectively to an end.

“I did that one for my birthday,” said Wilson, who turned 21 yesterday.

Wilson led all players in scoring with 18 points, despite three fouls in the first half.

“You saw how well Wesley Wilson can play if the stupid coach gives him some minutes,” Esherick joked after the game.

The Hoya bigmen each contributed significant points in the paint, with Boumtje-Boumtje and Sweetney both posting 12 points each. Rebels’ center Kaspars Kambala put up 12 points for UNLV, though he was unable to control Wilson on defense.

“[Wilson] was a handful for Kambala both offensively and defensively,” Esherick said.

Georgetown (17-1 overall, 4-1 Big East) is now primed for two of its biggest conference games of the season – showdowns with Notre Dame (12-5, 4-2) Saturday at MCI Center No. 11 Syracuse (15-3, 4-2) at the Carrier Dome on Monday night.

Both the Irish and the Orangemen have been streaky this season, but Notre Dame’s 74-60 win over Syracuse on Tuesday night gives the Hoyas an added challenge.

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