With 10:33 remaining in the second half, Georgetown had just watched an 11-point lead evaporate, was once again flailing against the full court press and found itself trailing by one to a Rutgers team that was winless in the Big East. But unlike Saturday’s remarkable collapse against St. John’s, the Hoyas battled through the Rutgers pressure defense and collected its second conference victory of the season Monday, 76-66.

“When we were down one, I thought we showed tremendous courage,” Georgetown Head Coach Craig Esherick said. “Particularly in terms of some of the things that had been going on . close games and losing to Seton Hall.”

While they did turn the ball over 19 times, Georgetown stayed in the game with tenacious defense, and rode stellar offensive performances from junior forward Mike Sweetney and sophomore guard Tony Bethel to a much needed win.

Leading 51-50 with 10:33 remaining, the Scarlet Knights went cold from the floor, hitting just one of thirteen shots over the course of more than nine minutes. By the time the Knights hit their next field goal with 1:19 remaining, Rutgers found itself trailing by 11 with the game out of reach.

Georgetown (10-4, 2-2 Big East) capitalized on the cold shooting from the field and after pulling ahead by six on a basket by sophomore guard Darrel Owens with 7:03 left, the Hoyas broke the game open with a 10-3 run and Rutgers (8-8, 0-4) never drew closer than 10 points again.

“This was a very important win,” Sweetney said. “We played much smarter today, and concentrated through the whole game.”

Bethel, a combined 3-for-20 from the floor the previous two games, broke out of his slump, tying a career-high 20 points, including a high-energy fast break dunk over Rutgers’ freshman guard Calvin Wooten with 5:21 left in the first half.

“That really got me going in the first half and I capitalized on it,” said Bethel, who drained a three-pointer on the next possession to open up a six-point Hoya lead.

“I can’t say enough about Tony Bethel,” Esherick said. “Tony has given us everything for these 14 games this season. I thought Tony was the key to the game both offensively and defensively today. He is the heart and soul of our team.”

As usual, Sweetney anchored the team, proving unstoppable in the low post after early foul trouble kept Rutgers big junior forward Sean Axani, senior center Kareem Wright and the willowy junior forward Herve Laminzana on the bench. Sweetney displayed an impressive scoring line, posting 27 points and 13 rebounds to go along with three assists, three blocks and two steals. The double-double is the 28th of Sweetney’s collegiate career.

Owens, who celebrated his birthday on Monday, scored six points and pulled down six rebounds, but more importantly gave the Hoyas another steady hand with which to break the press after seeing only limited action against St. John’s due to an ankle injury.

“Today when Darrel was in the game I thought their pressure was much easier to deal with because he’s such a good ball handler,” Esherick said. “He told me that he was going to have a big game today because it was his birthday. I guess he was right.”

Jerome Coleman paced the Scarlet Knights with a team-high 18 points.

The Hoyas next face their toughest divisional foe this Saturday as they travel to the newly built Peterson Events Center to take on No. 2 Pittsburgh Panthers.

Last season Georgetown dropped both contests to Pittsburgh, losing by one point at MCI Center and then getting battered 67-56 in Pittsburgh.

Esherick said freshman guard Ashanti Cook, out of action since the Duke game with an ankle injury, will likely be back in uniform for Saturday’s contest against the Panthers.

“He’s been walking around without a cast now,” Esherick said. “Hopefully he’ll be able to practice Thursday and Friday.”

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