MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The key to beating No. 16 West Virginia is taking away the three-point shot.

Georgetown managed to do that for 20 minutes on Wednesday night but its defense gave way in the second half, allowing the ountaineers to rally for a 68-61 victory at WVU Coliseum.

The Hoyas opened a 23-12 lead in the first period, but West Virginia responded by slowing down its offense, pushing the ball inside and looking for shorter shots. By halftime, the Mountaineers had closed the game to two.

West Virginia rode its momentum into the second half, as junior forward Frank Young scored seven straight points and gave the ountaineers their first lead of the game. While Georgetown struggled to come up with an inside presence on defense, shots beyond the arc opened up for West Virginia, who pulled out to a 12-point lead of its own and never looked back.

“I told our guys going in, they’re going to get shots and they’re going to go in,” Head Coach John Thompson III said. “You’re not going to shut that out.”

The Hoyas (10-3, 2-1) held West Virginia to 29 percent shooting before intermission, though they only shot 33 percent themselves. Georgetown never managed to overcome West Virginia’s variation of the 1-3-1 zone defense – a defensive front that is difficult enough without talent like WVU seniors Kevin Pittsnogle, Mike Gansey and Johannes Herber.

Though both teams had marked improvements in shooting in the second half, West Virginia benefited more. The Mountaineers went 7-for-14 on three-pointers in the second half, up from 3-for-19 in the first.

The Hoyas’ own senior members were uncharacteristically quiet, though senior guard Ashanti Cook did contribute eight points and six assists. Fifth-year Darrel Owens fouled out of the game with just under two minutes to play, after scoring only four points.

Sophomore forward Jeff Green narrowly missed a double-double for Georgetown, leading the team with 17 points and nine rebounds. Sophomore center Roy Hibbert had 16 points, while sophomore forward Jon Wallace added 12.

Pittsnogle paced West Virginia with 23 points on 8-of-15 shooting, including 3-of-8 from beyond the arc. Gansey notched a double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds and played an instrumental role in the Mountaineers’ second-half rally. He rushed to pull down his own rebounds and to tip in his teammates’ off-the-mark shots.

Of Gansey, Thompson said, “He’s a player in every sense of the word. I think he epitomizes their toughness.”

The Hoyas opened the game with two quick strikes, a layup by senior forward Brandon Bowman and a dunk by Green. From there the teams traded baskets, though three-point misses by the Mountaineers allowed Georgetown to open up a 16-7 advantage seven minutes into the contest.

The Hoyas surrendered just two three-pointers in the game’s first 15 minutes thanks to their quickness on the defensive end. For an eight-minute stretch late in the half, West Virginia did not score at all.

Meanwhile the Hoyas continued to work the boards and got a double-digit lead, temporarily quieting a raucous crowd of 12,116 onlookers.

But coming out of a timeout less than four minutes before the half, the Mountaineers ended their scoring drought on a layup by senior center Kevin Pittsnogle. West Virginia stole the momentum from Georgetown, surging back with a 9-0 run to close out the period.

Though Georgetown managed to claw to within five in the final minute, foul trouble doomed the team for its first conference loss of the year.

But the defeat may have shown the Hoyas that their Princeton offense, which is similarly used by the Mountaineers, can be successful in the Big East. After all, West Virginia (11-3, 3-0) did manage to knock off No. 3 Villanova last weekend.

“They did a lot of stuff to us that we usually do to other people,” Herber said of the Hoyas. “We don’t like to play teams like us.”

Before returning home to face South Florida on Tuesday, the Hoyas head north to take on the No. 4 Connecticut Huskies on Saturday. Tip-off is slated for noon.

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