For the first time this season, No. 12 Georgetown felt the particularly painful sting of an unexpected loss.
First, West Virginia took over the Hoyas’ arena Thursday night, packing Verizon Center with the largest contingent of visiting fans this season. Then the Mountaineers took over the floor, physically manhandling the home team 75-58 to hand the Hoyas their first loss to an unranked team since a 77-70 setback last Feb. 16 at Syracuse.
“The most disappointing thing was how we responded to not making shots,” Georgetown coach John Thompson III said. The Hoyas (12-5, 3-3 Big East) made just two shots from outside the paint.
“That angst and frustration bled over to the defensive end,” Thompson added. “Our poor defense was a function of us not making shots. In that regard, today was a blip. [That poor defensive effort] was not the norm.”
West Virginia (14-4, 3-2) entered with a game plan as simple as it proved to be effective: Swamp Georgetown center Greg Monroe (11 points, eight rebounds, four assists, four turnovers) and force the Hoyas to find another catalyst for their motion offense. The Mountaineers fronted Monroe in the pivot before every touch and then collapsed on him with two defenders on the rare occasions when Georgetown was able to execute a clean entry pass to the 6-foot-11 freshman.
“All we did was try to limit his touches,” said Bob Huggins, the West Virginia coach and famed defensive guru. “They run so many things through him, and he has such a great understanding of what John wants him to do, so we just tried to limit his touches.”
The ploy worked beautifully. The Hoyas floundered offensively without their playmaking center dispensing assists. The result was a team that stagnated offensively, alternating between errant 3-point attempts (the Hoyas were a woeful 2-for-16 from behind the arc) and forced entries to a blanketed Monroe. The latter contributed heavily to Georgetown’s 19 turnovers.
As Thompson indicated, the Hoyas played with a metaphorical pout on the defensive end. Time and again, Georgetown lost gunner De’Sean Butler, who was on the receiving end of the drive-and-kick West Virginia offense. Butler turned the open looks into a 27-point outburst. The junior forward connected on 11 of 18 attempts (including four 3-pointers), strapping the Mountaineers on his shoulders from the opening tip.
“Because we don’t have a post guy, we live and die with jump shots,” said Huggins, whose team hit 18 of 31 shots (58.1 percent) in the second half to turn a 45-43 lead with 11:49 remaining into a rout.
To go along with the Hoyas’ raft of other issues, the undersized Mountaineers also throttled Georgetown on the boards (39-31), pulling down 14 offensive rebounds and corralling seemingly every loose ball.
“That’s an everyday thing for us because we’re just so small,” Huggins said. “I don’t think there’s anybody else in the Big East starting a 6-6 center [Wellington Smith]. We’ve got to make up for it with hustle.”
In a game with too many culprits to count, perhaps the biggest surprise was the inability of Georgetown leading scorer DaJuan Summers (12 points on 4-for-14 shooting) to rise to the challenge issued by West Virginia’s decision to double Monroe on every touch. The junior power forward seemed stapled to the floor on a number of Georgetown possessions and eschewed most of the blue-collar tussling in the paint (three rebounds).
The Hoyas have no time for finger-pointing; they begin a three-game road trip Sunday at struggling Seton Hall.
“It’s very frustrating, but we just have to play through the adversity,” Summers said. “We have to learn and move on.”
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