Last season, four overtime losses likely separated Georgetown from a berth in the NCAA Tournament. In their first overtime contest of the 2002-03 season, the Hoyas were determined not to let that happen again. Eventually, they downed conference foe West Virginia 84-82.

Trailing by three with 2.1 seconds remaining, sophomore guard Tony Bethel drained a desperate three-point attempt over 6-foot-10 West Virginia center Kevin Pittsnogle from the corner to knot the score at 74 and send the contest to overtime. From there the Hoyas rode six overtime points by junior pre-season All-American Mike Sweetney and two points apiece from Bethel and sophomore guard Drew Hall to an 84-82 victory over the Mountaineers Sunday.

“Our emotion was very high going into overtime. We just stepped it up,” Sweetney said.

Midway through the second half it looked as though Georgetown (9-2, 1-0 Big East) would cruise to victory in its first Big East conference game this season. Trailing by 11 with 7:15 remaining, West Virginia (9-4, 1-1) capitalized on six Georgetown turnovers to spark a 20-4 run and vault into the lead 72-67 with 1:34 left to play.

After closing the margin to 74-71 following a layup by junior guard/forward RaMell Ross, Georgetown caught the break it needed when Hall stole the ball from West Virginia’s Tyrone Sally with 15 seconds left. With no timeouts remaining the Hoyas scrambled to find an open three-point shot. Junior Victor Samnick launched an attempt from the left corner that bounced off the rim and deflected off a West Virginia player out of bounds with six seconds remaining. Hall then inbounded the ball to Bethel in the corner where he converted his heroic heave.

“Everyone put in a good effort,” Sweetney said. “Last year we didn’t close games out like this. I think this shows that we’re getting better and playing smarter at the end of games.”

While Bethel and his buzzer-beater occupied the limelight at the game’s end, the Hoyas would never have made it to overtime without Sweetney’s Herculean effort in the low post. He garnered the co-Big East Player of the Week award for his solid play against Duke and West Virginia.

Though West Virginia routinely double- and triple-teamed Sweetney, the 6-foot-8, 260-lb. power forward dominated on the blocks against the smaller Mountaineers, matching his career high with 35 points and falling just one shy of his career high in rebounds with 19. He also added five blocks and three steals defensively, including a late-game pick in overtime with just over a minute left.

Despite Sweetney’s success, after the game, Georgetown Head Coach Craig Esherick launched into a tirade regarding the officials’ aversion to calling fouls on contact in the low post.

“For the referees in our league, and for our league and for the adults that are running this league to expect Mike Sweetney to put up with the kind of contact that he has to put up with in the post when he goes up to shoot, and to put up with the contact that he has to absorb and deal with and be happy about and not have a referee call a foul, and then watch our perimeter people get called for hand checking every time we put our hands on somebody else, to me, is just absolutely crazy,” Esherick said. “If they are going to call [handchecking], then they cannot expect Mike Sweetney to say `Oh, that’s alright, I’m in the post and there’s a lot of contact in the post. That is crap. That is unfair and it’s got to stop. It’s got to stop right now.”

The normally tranquil Esherick was clearly irate about recent officiating, alluding to the Hoyas’ games against Virginia, Duke and West Virginia. At one point Esherick stated that he will pay an NCAA referee to sit down and watch the Georgetown game tapes to see how often Sweetney was fouled. He further added: “I will pay a referee to sit in the post and have someone beat the crap out of him and see how he likes it.”

“I think its amazing that Mike has been able to stay as calm as he has this season,” Esherick said. “But I’m not going to behave that way anymore. I am sick of this. I am absolutely sick of the way Mike Sweetney is being treated in this league.”

While Sweetney agreed that there might be some non-calls, he displayed his typical focused attitude after learning of Esherick’s comments.

“My reaction is to keep playing through it,” Sweetney said. “He’s right. There are fouls being missed, but I can’t do anything about it. If they don’t call the fouls, you just keep playing.”

Sweetney and the Hoyas will continue play tonight in East Rutherford, N.J. against Seton Hall, though Esherick is not sure that he will be making the trip.

“I probably won’t be coaching next game,” Esherick said, believing that he will likely be suspended by the league for his comments. No Big East coach has ever been suspended by the conference for public comments about officiating.

Georgetown’s Sports Information Department said that Esherick has not been suspended, citing his avoidance of profanity and the fact that he did not name specific officials.

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