Just a few short days after talking about how much it still had to play for in the NIT, the West…
With the interior game again lacking, the Mountaineers couldn't covert enough jumpshots, including the deciding stretch in which they went more than six minutes without a field goal as the Hoyas snapped a five-game series skid to advance to a second round match-up with No. 1 seed Florida State. West Virginia hung around via the shooting of Terry Henderson and Eron Harris until eight minutes left, when Georgetown sealed the game with an 11-0 spurt that turned a 57-51 lead into a 68-51 advantage inside four minutes.
WVU missed five straight shots and turned the ball over twice, once when Harris was stripped and once when Juwan Staten was called for a charge. The Hoyas, meanwhile, got multiple run-out buckets as the Mountaineers were slow in transition defense. Georgetown also dissected two different West Virginia zones to get easy lay-ins and high-quality looks as it outscored the Mountaineers 47-32 in the second half in a game played at 2,000-seat McDonough Arena, GU's on campus arena, due to a circus at the 18,277-seat Verizon Center.
Staten, as he has all season, paced West Virginia with 23 points on 8-of-13 shooting. Harris and Remi Dibo added 10 and 11 points, respectively, and Henderson came off the bench to score 13. D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera hit a game-high 32 for Georgetown, including key buckets during the 11-0 push. The guard hit a lay-up and three-pointer before adding a pair of free throws to account for seven of the 11 points that effectively sealed the game. First team all-Big East guard Markel Starks had 14 points.
West Virginia (17-16) finished just 6-of-22 from three-point range (27.3 percent), and struggled to get anything inside for the second straight game. Devin Williams took just one shot, scoring three points with eight rebounds. That was partially responsible for a nine-point Georgetown edge at the foul line; the Hoyas made 24-of-30 to WVU's 15-of-24 from the stripe. Nathan Adrian also took just one shot while Brandwon Watkins, in extremely limited time, recorded two turnovers and two fouls against zero points on as many shots. Georgetown had advantages in rebounding (35-30), assists (14-13) and steals (8-1) while committing fewer turnovers (12-8).
"You can't cheat this game," Huggins said on the MSN by IMG postgame radio show. "If you don't really put the time and effort into this game, it's not going to be good to you. "After we lost to Xavier my first year back here, I pulled Wellington Smith and Da'Sean Butler aside and sad we just lost a game because you took plays off. And, to their credit, they played every play hard.
"(Right now), we are like everybody else and it's not very rewarding. We have to have some commitment from some guys. We get pushed off the blocks. And we aren't as mentally tough because we lost that desire to be special. It started a year ago. The bottom line is we have to get world's better to do what we want to do."
West Virginia, after Harris' jumper with 9:07 remaining, went without a basket for 6:30 until Staten's lay-up with 2:37 left. Georgetown was ahead 68-55 by then, and cruised from there. WVU had a chance to get within single digits with 1:46 left when Staten was fouled on a three-pointer. But the guard missed the first and third foul shots, and, after an offensive rebound by Adrian, Henderson's three was long.
West Virginia did manage a 36-33 early in the second half when Georgetown went on an 8-0 run for a 41-36 edge with 16 minutes to play. Starks and Smith-Rivera combined to score seven points, and one could sense the momentum shift. That followed a 333-30 West Virginia leaad at the break. The Mountaineers shot 54.5 percent in the opening half, with Staten and Dibo already amassing 15 and 11 points, respectively. Staten missed just one of his seven shots, and routinely exploited the Hoya defense, pressuring the rim off the dribble and using superior speed to create mismatches.
The game was tied at 11-11 with 11 minutes to play in the first half. Neither team had found an offensive flow, Georgetown having missed 14 of its first 18 shots, including five of its six threes, while WVU was hitting at just a 25 percent clip from the field. Both offenses heated up over the final 10 minutes, with Dibo nailing three of four buckets at one point – including an easy lay-in off a back screen by Noreen – as the teams traded leads between the seven- and three-minute marks. Staten scored the final seven Mountaineer points, including a traditional three-point play inside 30 seconds. The Hoyas missed two point blank shots on their final possession of the period, but grabbed the rebound both times and hit a third putback for the three-point margin.
It was WVU's 16 NIT berth. The fifth-seeded Mountaineers are now 21-16 all-time with championships in 1942 and 2007 – its last appearance. The Mountaineers played consolation games under a different format twice, accounting for the extra two losses against the pair of titles. Fourth-seeded Georgetown (18-14) now leads the series 27-25. The Hoyas were 11-4 at one point this season, and were 15-9 as late as Feb. 10 with a win over No. 7 Michigan State before a late-season swoon saw the Hoyas drop five of their last seven games.