Capital Effort Comes Up Short

The West Virginia Mountaineers went into the MCI Center in Washington, DC, Sunday afternoon and for 45 minutes they gave Georgetown all they wanted to offset a career day for forward Michael Sweetney, but it wasn't enough as the Hoyas prevailed in overtime 84-82.

Sweetney scored 35 points to match his career high, but Georgetown still needed a desperation 3-pointer by backup point guard Tony Bethel to force the overtime after erasing a five-point Mountaineer lead with under a minute to play. This was actually two games in one - a game that on paper WVU should never have been in - a game that they should have lost by at least 15 - and a game they should have won when they led by 5 with under a minute to play.

In what has become a recurring theme for this young team, the Mountaineers started slowly, missing all of their 2-point shot attempts in the first 10 minutes of the game. Leading scorer Drew Schifino, who led WVU again with 25 points, missed his first five shots and scored only four first-half points.

However, solid 3-point shooting combined with solid defense, unusually solid free throw shooting (9-10 in the first half), and cold shooting by Georgetown helped WVU stymie the Hoyas early and fashion leads of up to five points three different times. The Mountaineers' shooting problems never really got better in the first half - they shot just 33 percent from the field and 42 percent from the game - and Georgetown used a 12-5 run over the last three minutes to take a 34-28 halftime lead.

Georgetown came out hot in the second half and pushed the lead to 12 with 16 minutes remaining, and while WVU mounted a few mini-runs they couldn't get closer than 5 points over the next five minutes and the Hoyas still led by 11, 63-52, with 7 minutes to play. Then all of a sudden the Mountaineers went on a 9-0 run that ended only with two free throws by Georgetown's Gerald Riley, who scored 12 points before fouling out with 2:53 to play in regulation. (More on Riley's fouls later).

WVU took its first lead of the second half at 66-65 on a 3-pointer by Kevin Pittsnogle, who finished with 18 points in another un-freshmanlike outing. The Mountaineers led by five, 72-67, with 1:35 remaining and when two Jo Herber free throws set the lead at 74-71 with eight seconds to play in regulation, they seemed on their way to their third and most improbable upset win of the year, especially when Georgetown's Victor Samnick missed a 3-pointer with 5 seconds to play. But the Hoyas got new life when the rebound from that shot was bounced out of bounds by a WVU player and Bethel's prayer went in off the inbound pass even with Pittsnogle in his face.

The overtime period looked like the first five minutes of regulation, with the Hoyas hitting a couple of timely jumpers and going 4-4 from the line including two by Bethel to ice it with 6 seconds left, while WVU reverted to form and missed all three of their foul shots in the last 2 minutes, and Kevin Pittsnogle missed two short jumpers that would have tied it for a second overtime.

Also true to form, the Mountaineers were on the short end of a 48-38 rebounding margin, including 17 offensive rebounds for the Hoyas that led to 28 second-chance points.

Turnovers were all even at 22 each, but the Mountaineers gave up 16 steals while collecting 13 of their own.

Besides Schifio's 25 and Pittsnogle's 18, Jo Herber hit for 13 and Tyrone Sally 9, including the 3-pointer that gave the Mountaineers their five-point lead at the 1:35 mark of regulation.

Three games in one: On paper, WVU just flat did not figure to match up physically with the likes of Sweetney, Riley, and Samnick, and with a starting lineup of three freshmen and two sophomores, the veteran Hoyas should have put this game away early and easily - on paper. But so far nobody has been able to put any fear into these young Mountaineers, and nothing illustrated that better than Patrick Beilein challenging Sweetney and Riley again and again on drives to the basket. He didn't hit any of those layups, but he did get to the line three times in the last 3 minutes of the first half and he went 5-6 on the resulting free throws.

Still, WVU should not have lost this game, not holding a five-point lead with 1:35 to play and the kind of ball-control offense that should have forced Georgetown to foul to save clock. The control went out of the ball-control in the last minute, with the Mountaineers forcing a couple of bad shots and committing a couple of untimely turnovers that allowed Georgetown to stay in the game.

It doesn't get any easier for WVU as they face #5 Pitt - a 70-63 winner at Rutgers today - in the Coliseum on Tuesday night.

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