- The Washington Times - Friday, December 21, 2001

John Thompson deserved better from his namesake tournament.
In the time it takes to read this sentence, Virginia will grab two more offensive rebounds over the hapless Hoyas. And Thompson, the defensive maestro whose teams prided themselves on mastery of the glass, will wince several more times at the memory of last night's debacle at MCI Center.
The fifth-ranked Cavaliers demolished a bigger Georgetown squad on the boards last night, scrapping out a 61-55 victory over the 16th-ranked Hoyas before a spirited crowd of 18,789 at the John Thompson Foundation Classic.
"If anybody in here wants to volunteer to come in and teach us how to box out, you're welcome, " said Georgetown coach Craig Esherick after watching his team get humiliated 49-30 on the boards. "We forced them to take the shots we wanted them to take. We played good defense for long stretches on most every possession, forced them into difficult shots and then allowed them to get second and third chances. That was definitely the key to the game."
The primary culprits for Georgetown (9-2) were sophomore power forward Mike Sweetney (10 points, seven rebounds) and junior center Wesley Wilson (seven points, six rebounds). Though the pair had a tremendous size advantage on Virginia's glass-crashing frontline tandem of Chris Williams (17 points, 11 rebounds) and Travis Watson (12 points, 13 rebounds), they were neither quick enough nor tough enough to handle the Cavaliers (7-0).
"I think we have to take responsibility for this loss, " said Sweetney. "We just got out-hustled and out-worked. We'd tip it once and just quit. They just kept going hard to the boards. They never quit. That's pretty embarrassing for a team and a school that's known for its intensity on the defensive end."
Georgetown, which must now stew over that poor performance until a Dec. 29 matchup with UCLA at Pauley Pavilion, suffered its first loss of the season against Georgia last month in almost identical fashion a smallish group of Bulldogs drubbing them 52-37 on the boards.
"It was very similar to the Georgia game in that we rebounded very poorly, " said Esherick. "That's obviously something we have to work on, and we have lots of time to do it January, February and March."
Amazingly, Georgetown kept the game close despite its horrendous performance on the boards and an uncharacteristically weak shooting night.
After falling behind by as many as 14 points in the first half, the Hoyas rallied after intermission behind a gutsy performance from its freshman backcourt tandem of Tony Bethel and Drew Hall. Playing alongside senior guard Kevin Braswell in the same small set that the Hoyas used to rout Howard Monday night, Bethel and Hall combined for 20 points and six steals, helping the Hoyas force 25 Virginia turnovers.
Time and again, the Hoyas (9-2) trimmed the lead to four points over the final 10 minutes. And time and again, Virginia responded, either with an offensive putback from relentless jumping jacks Watson and Williams, or a slashing score from point man Roger Mason, Jr. (16 points).
But just to put the perfect finishing touch on a game of painful surprises for the Hoyas, Braswell came up small down the stretch for one of the first times in his career. The Baltimore native, who scored a career-high 40 points the last time the teams met, scored a season-low seven points last night and made just two of his 14 shots. But none of his miscues was any more costly than the two over the final two minutes.
The game's key moment came with Georgetown trailing 57-53 and 2:06 remaining. Braswell, who has hit so many huge shots in his career, got yet another huge opportunity when he collected a pass from Hall and found himself looking at an uncontested 3-pointer. Braswell's shot was nowhere close, clanging helplessly off the rim.
It seemed as if he might redeem himself seconds later after tying up Mason and drawing a foul. But Braswell missed the front end of a one-on-one with 1:33 remaining, and Virginia (of course) collected the rebound to virtually ice the game.
"That's what hurts the most right now is how bad I played, " said Braswell. "You're going to have off nights like that, but I can't let them happen in games this huge. I'll be in the gym all day tomorrow trying to shoot it out. And we'll all have to live with this one through the holidays."

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