D.C. Disappointment

If you listened really closely in the MCI Center on Saturday night you could hear a loud "pop" as the Mountaineers' NCAA bubble was virtually burst by a Georgetown team determined to strengthen its own tournament hopes.

It was the same story that West Virginia has written in many meetings with the Big East's top teams this season. Just as it did against Connecticut, Boston College and Syracuse, West Virginia battled to the end and had ample opportunities to win the game, but they could simply not find the shot they needed when it mattered most, and the Hoyas moved to 16-6, 8-3 in the conference, with a 67-60 win.

"We just have to give them credit," said WVU forward Mike Gansey. "They were just more physical and a lot bigger. If we would have come up with three or four loose balls, it could have been a different game. They were able to get them, and that is why they won the game."

A look at the statistics makes it hard to believe that WVU was ever in the contest. The home team out-rebounded the visiting Mountaineers 34-25, scored 38 points in the paint compared to West Virginia's 22, converted 19 points off of turnovers and had eight second chance points, all while shooting nearly 56 percent from the field. In comparison, the Mountaineers hit just 42 percent of their attempts.

Despite these one-sided numbers, the game was actually either team's to win. In fact, the first half belonged almost entirely to the men in gold. Early buckets from Tyrone Sally, Kevin Pittsnogle, D'or Fisher, Frank Young and Pat Beilein helped the Mountaineers build a 16-8 lead with one of the most balanced attacks they have showcased all season.

Georgetown, though, began to find some gaps in the WVU defense and collected some loose balls to get a couple of easy buckets, and the 16-8 lead was suddenly a 16-16 tie halfway through the opening half.

"They got a lot of those 50-50 balls that we didn't get," said Patrick Beilein. "But we were playing three guys who were on medicine and just trying to battle through the game. Our gas tank just wasn't filled."

The Hoyas, however, were never able to jump into the lead as five straight points from Joe Herber and a putback layup from Gansey put the visitors back ahead 25-18.

As would prove to be the story of the entire contest, though, it was Georgetown's turn to make a run. Six straight points from Hoya big man Roy Hibbert, who was having his way against West Virginia's zone attack, pulled the home team within one at 27-26 with just 19 ticks left in the opening frame. WVU was able to build the lead back to three when Luke Bonner stroked through a pair of free throws for his only two points of the game, and the Mountaineers trotted to the locker room with a 29-26 lead.

"We would have liked for the turnovers to be a little lower and we felt we missed a couple of opportunities, but we still had the lead," admitted Pat Beilein. Anytime you can have a lead on the road in the Big East it is a good thing, no matter where you are."

Georgetown started the second half just as it had ended the first, with Jeff Green and Hibbert finding buckets at a fast and furious pace. An Ashanti Cook jumper off of a steal gave Georgetown its first lead of the contest with 18:46 left to play, 32-31. That lead would begin a seesaw battle that would be the story the rest of the way. Over the next 13 minutes the lead would change hands seven times, and the game was tied four times. With 5:42 left on the enormous MCI Center scoreboard, the game was tied at 54-54, and the Georgetown fans, along with a solid contingent wearing gold and blue, rose to their feet anticipating an exciting finish.

Neither team seemed to want the win, as a three-minute scoring drought kept the teams tied heading down the stretch. Finally, with 2:43 left to play, Georgetown's Darrel Owens knocked down a long three to bring the crowd to a frenzy and give the home team a 57-54 lead. The noise level only grew when Brandon Bowman picked Herber and Ray Reed through down a fastbreak dunk to extend the lead to five with just 2:07.

The officials helped put the nail in the coffin on the next possession, when Pittsnogle was whistled for an off the ball foul, giving the Hoyas the ball back with a five-point lead and less than two minutes to play. West Virginia had little choice but to foul, and Ashanti Cook knocked down one-of-two to put Georgetown in front 60-54 with 1:29.

"That was such a tough call," said Patrick Beilein. "It just didn't need to be called at that time. You hardly see any referees call that, especially at that time of the game. It was frustrating because we were right there, and when you get a questionable call against you, it really hurts."

A quick Beilein three on WVU's next possession found nothing but iron, and Jeff Green knocked down the front end of a one-and-one to give Georgetown its biggest lead of the game at 61-54 with 1:20 to play.

The Mountaineers, though, made one last run as fans started to file out of the arena. A Beilein three cut the lead to four with 1:11 to play, and West Virginia went on defense not willing to foul and give the Hoyas easy points. With just 37 seconds left in the game, a Jonathan Wallace three clanged off the rim, and Pittsnogle secured the rebound. Pittsnogle handed the ball to Darris Nichols, who found a streaking Tyrone Sally for an easy layin to cut the lead to 61-59. Sally, who felt he was hacked on the way up, begged for a foul, but his suggestion fell on deaf ears.

Desperately needing the ball to tie the game, West Virginia attempted to trap the Hoyas on the inbound pass. Unfortunately, the Mountaineer double-team turned into a triple-team, leaving a couple of Hoyas wide open down the court. Georgetown made two easy passes and Bowman ended the breakaway with an easy layup to put his team ahead 63-59 with 21 seconds left.

"Somebody missed an assignment," said Patrick Beilein. "I don't really know what happened, but we didn't get a trap in the corner, and it led to an easy layup."

The final 21 ticks were nothing more than a foul shooting exhibition for the Hoyas, and Georgetown hit all four foul shots it attempted down the stretch to leave with the seven-point victory.

West Virginia (14-8, 4-7) will be back in action on Wednesday when it head to St. John's for a 7:30 p.m. battle. Georgetown will head to

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