The All-Big East senior scored 25 points, one off a career high, a game after being shutout to lead the No. 9 Hoyas to a 72-55 win on Friday in the conference semifinals. Hibbert had 13 by the break and continued the dominance in the second half, becoming a safety valve of sorts. Any lack of offense, and the answer was there.
Not so for West Virginia (24-10, 13-8 Big East), which couldn't free Joe Alexander for decent looks after the forward tallied an average of 30 points per game over the recent winning streak. The Mountaineers never cut to the basket or forced Georgetown to respect backdoors, allowing it to press the man defense both inside and on the perimeter to limit Alexander to 12 points on five of 16 shooting. WVU did manage to cut a 45-34 deficit to 49-45 with 12:15 left on Alex Ruoff's three-pointer, only to collapse during a 16-0 Hoya run that sealed the game with three-plus minutes remaining. It never got closer than 16 points again after the resulting 67-47 edge.
"They got us more spread than they had before," West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins said. "When you let (Hibbert) catch it and bounce it a couple times in the lane, he is going to throw that hook. We just couldn't get to him. Didn't or couldn't."
The loss ends West Virginia's five-game winning streak, though the push should allow WVU to elevate its NCAA seeding to six or seven, pending the outcome of other postseason conference tournaments. Georgetown (27-4, 17-3) has won seven in a row to date and all 14 games when seeded No. 1 in the conference tournament. It will play for a Big East-record eighth postseason title on Saturday.
"This time of year you want to win, and win convincingly," Georgetown head coach John Thompson III said. "I have said all along that we can play and we have success in different ways. The big fella is the hub, the focal point. He had freedom down there today and he did what he does."
Which is everything. Hibbert added 13 rebounds, 10 offensive, for his second double-double in as many games against West Virginia. Jessie Sapp, who hit a late three-pointer to beat WVU in the regular-season meeting, finished with 13 points. Two others had nine, as the Hoyas made 18 of 34 field goals (53.3 percent) led by a 12 for 17 effort from Hibbert. Da'Sean Butler led the Mountaineers with 16 points, with Ruoff and Alexander each adding a dozen. West Virginia, which dominated GU on the boards in the first meeting, was equally hammered here, allowing 40 to its 22. The Mountaineers missed 29 of 49 shots against the nation's top field goal percentage defense.
The teams swapped the lead just twice, Georgetown taking it for good with less than five minutes played. WVU stayed close, battling within 16-14 after John Flowers' putback with 9:29 left in the opening period. But the Hoyas ripped off 14 of the next 17 points over the ensuing seven minutes to take a 30-17 edge. West Virginia largely failed to get back in transition defense, something it did effectively in the quarterfinal win over Connecticut, and allowed GU's quickness and length to smother any offensive sets. Hibbert started the push with a lay-in and dunk before Sapp drove the lane for a pair. Hibbert later blew past the Mountaineers again for a lay-up, scoring the final of his 13 first-half points. He made six of seven from the field in the period, including a three-pointer and three dunks in arguably his best game of the season, if not his career.
"He is a really good player," Huggins said. "I was expecting us to guard him a little better than we did, but he had a heck of a game. He played well and he played aggressively."
Alexander tried to match the effort, but was guarded effectively by Patrick Ewing, Jr. and DeJuan Summers. The duo limited the junior to four points on two of seven shooting in the first half – a line that never truly got better as the game wore on. Alexander could not find the net as he had in prior games, and missed badly on a pair of occasions.
"We were fortunate that our guys made it very difficult on (Alexander)," Thompson III said. "It was a game where we didn't want to run at him, just guard him. I think our guys' effort did a good job of making things a little more difficult for him."
The loss snaps West Virginia's five-game winning streak at Madison Square Garden. The NCAA Selection Show is at 6 p.m. EST on Sunday. It will be broadcast by CBS.
Note: Ruoff's three three-pointers move him into a tie for third with Kevin Pittsnogle on the school single-season list with 91. Pittsnogle's mark came in 2005-06.