Late Free Throw Gives West Virginia a 55-54 Win

Controversial Foul Caps Sloppy Game; Georgetown Drops Third Straight

By Sean P. Flynn Hoya Staff Writer

Elton Scott’s free throw with two-tenths of a second left gave West Virginia a 55-54 win over Georgetown in a sloppy game Tuesday evening at MCI Center.

While outmatched and slowed down by the Hoyas’ trapping defense, the scrappy Mountaineers were able to capitalize on poor shooting, rebounding and ballhandling by the Hoyas to stay close the whole game.

With 1:02 left, sophomore guard Anthony Perry stole the ball from West Virginia sophomore guard Brooks Berry and made a breakaway layup while being fouled by freshman Lionel Armstead to tie the game at 54. After West Virginia called its last timeout, Perry missed his free throw.

On West Virginia’s possession, after running down the clock 30 seconds, Berry missed a three-pointer, which was rebounded by Perry and promptly stolen back by the Mountaineers’ Marcus Goree with 22 seconds left.

With no timeouts left, West Virginia looked for a shot in the waning moments, but the Hoya defense allowed them none. Finally, with the clock running out, Scott turned around at the baseline and met Georgetown sophomore guard Nat Burton, who fell to the ground and was called for a questionable foul with 0:00.2 showing on the clock.

“The ref made his own call, and I can’t argue,” Burton said.

“I’ll probably get myself in big trouble [if I say anything about that foul call],” Head Coach Craig Esherick said. “I’m not even going to talk about that.”

After Georgetown called two full timeouts and a 20-second timeout, Scott finally stepped to the line for his one-and-one. With the student section waving and roaring in the background, Scott drained his first shot, securing the victory for West Virginia.

“Needless to say, at the end, we had several chances to win, and we could have won,” said Esherick, whose record now drops to 1-3 since taking the Georgetown head coaching job on Jan. 8 when longtime head coach John Thompson resigned. “Scott made a big free throw.”

For a sleepy MCI Center crowd of 5,916, the dramatic ending capped a poorly played game. When the buzzer sounded, the Hoyas were met with boos from the crowd, which up to that point had been noticeably quieter and smaller than the contest against Syracuse last Saturday afternoon.

For the Hoyas, the loss is his third in eight days against a Big East opponent. The combined margin of defeat for the Hoyas (8-9, 1-7 Big East) in the three games is five points. Esherick was not ready to blame Tuesday’s loss on a letdown after the Hoyas last two losses, a 81-79 home decision against Syracuse Saturday and a 71-69 thriller against St. John’s on Jan. 11 at Madison Square Garden.

“This game was similar to the last couple games,” Esherick said. “We had the ability to win the game at the end. We have to learn how to close.”

Both teams’ defenses caused problems for the other’s offense. Georgetown’s trapping made it difficult for West Virginia to stay organized when it had the ball, while the ountaineers’ combinations of different defenses reeked havoc for the Hoyas’ shooting.

Meanwhile, freshman center Ruben Boumtje-Boumtje was unimpressive on offense, mustering only three shots and two points despite a distinct height advantage on West Virginia, which lost all of its starters after last year. His five turnovers and timidness on offense virtually cancelled out his 11 rebounds and five blocks he picked up in 38 minutes.

“I think West Virginia did a great job changing defenses,” Esherick said. “[West Virginia Head Coach Gale Catlett] went man [to man], he went zone, and we had a hard time, I think, getting into our offense early in each possession because they did a good job disguising whether they were in their zone or their man.”

West Virginia improved its record to 8-10, 3-6 in the Big East, and picked up its first win since beating Rutgers 65-63 on Dec. 30.

The Hoyas’ second possession of the game set the tone for the remainder of the night. While posting up on the left side against West Virginia’s Marcus Goree (17 points, 11 rebounds, four blocks, four assists), Boumtje-Boumtje’s pass to Burton behind the three-point line sailed over Burton’s head for the Hoyas first of 20 turnovers.

“At the beginning of the game, I don’t think we set a very good tone,” Esherick said. “We had some turnovers that I think kind of set the tone for us.”

West Virginia was ahead by as much as six points in the first 10 minutes, capitalizing on poor shooting and turnovers by Georgetown. When Georgetown started making its shots, the tide turned, and at one point the Hoyas were ahead by five points. Yet the Hoyas could never make a run to put away the Mountaineers. In the last 4:04 of the first half, Georgetown scored no points, missing four shots, two free throws and committing two turnovers as the Mountaineers scrapped thier way to a 25-23 advantage at intermission.

“We definitely have to improve on our ballhandling,” Esherick said. “We had some unforced turnovers, particularly in the first half, where nobody was really guarding the ball, they weren’t really trapping us. We did a poor job of handling the ball.

“But we’ll get better.”

In the second half, it was much of the same, with sloppy play disrupting the flow. Again, the Hoyas got a sizeable lead, this time seven points with 13 minutes left, but couldn’t put the ountaineers away. Armstead, West Virginia’s 5-foot-11 freshman point guard from Toledo, Ohio, made a pair of three-pointers that helped thwart a couple of Hoya pushes towards the lead with under five minutes left.

After Braswell, one of the few bright spots for Georgetown in the second half, with 15 points, hit a three with 2:18 left, about 30 seconds later the Mountaineers’ Berry drained a jumper from the free-throw line, falling down to give West Virginia a two-point advantage they wouldn’t relinquish until Perry’s layup.

The Hoyas will attempt to end their three-game skid Saturday when they travel to Pitsburgh to play the slumping Panthers at 7 p.m. in Fitzgerald Field House. After upsetting Kentucky and Xavier en route to a 6-0 start, the Panthers have lost nine out of their last 12 games, beating only Prairie View A&M, Howard and Boston College.

“We have to get over this game,” Esherick said. “This is something our guys have to learn how to deal with. You have to deal with the highs and the lows in the season. We’ve had certainly more lows than highs the last couple games and we have to deal with it.

“We have to put this game totally out of our mind.”

 

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