- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 29, 2002

CHARLOTTESVILLE.
Mr. Sweetney, Mr. Watson.
Mr. Watson, Mr. Sweetney.
OK, shake hands and come out jumping.
Such introductions might be necessary should Georgetown and Virginia collide in the NCAA tournament three months hence, because the nation's two best college power forwards Hoyas junior Mike Sweetney and Cavaliers senior Travis Watson didn't spend much time together yesterday at University Hall.
For those interested solely in eyeballing their matchup, the afternoon must have been a dud. Everybody else got to see a crackling good, if inconsistently officiated, basketball game that went down to the final seconds as usual between these schools before Virginia prevailed 79-75.
Both behemoths were coming off injuries, Sweetney to a hamstring and Watson to an ankle, although neither admitted ill health yesterday. Whether this was a factor nobody knows for sure, but their supposedly titanic tiff was about as interesting as another go-round between Bush and Gore.
After being tagged with two fouls within 31 seconds early in the first half, Sweetney disappeared faster than the Cincinnati Bengals' playoff hopes. He made a cameo appearance with 6:44 left in the half but played only three minutes before intermission and 12 after before fouling out with 6:26 remaining in the game. All told, he hit four of seven shots, scored 11 points and snatched four rebounds not exactly the stuff of which All-Americans are made.
Watson did not enter the fray until four minutes had elapsed and Sweetney was pining away on the bench, engendering a suspicion that coaches Craig Esherick of Georgetown and Pete Gillen of Virginia had signed a nonaggression pact regarding their superdupers.
The Cavaliers' main man had a longer workday than Sweetney, scoring 16 points and collecting five rebounds in 30 minutes, but overall the two spent less time in close proximity than Hootie Johnson and Martha Burk. In fact, when the two guarded each other briefly in the second half, you could almost sense executives of CBS Sports, which televised the game nationally, getting down on their knees and giving thanks.
Afterward, Watson expressed no disappointment that the big battle had turned mostly into a no-go. "I was trying to win the game, not worrying about [Sweetney]," Travis said, apparently discounting the possibility that the two might go hand in hand.
Actually, the game didn't need a Sweetney vs. Watson sideshow to entrance whatever Georgetown fans made the trip south and whatever Virginia fans passed up the Cavaliers' football game against West Virginia in the time-honored Continental Tire Bowl. It was a darn good show on its own, with the unbeaten Hoyas opening quickly, the Cavaliers storming back to take a 14-point lead midway through the second half and the Hoyas rallying back for a one-point edge with 2 minutes to go.
Ultimately, Virginia stuck it to Georgetown for good when Elton Brown hit a turnaround jumper from the left side with 2:24 remaining and Watson himself drove the baseline for a layup with 1:44 left, making it 74-71. The Hoyas were done at that point, although nobody knew it yet.
Despite the frantic finish, Georgetown sports information director Bill Shapland was correct when he said, "In a week or so, nobody will remember this game." What Shapland meant, of course, was that Virginia begins ACC play Jan.5 at N.C. State and Georgetown enters Big East combat Jan.12 against West Virginia at MCI Center. The main purpose of December non-league games, no matter how challenging, is to prepare teams for more meaningful challenges ahead.
Both coaches expressed satisfaction with yesterday's affair and, naturally, both saw the need for improvement within the ranks. Asked if he would agree that it had been a wonderful sort of struggle, the absence of a Sweetney-Watson showdown notwithstanding, Esherick termed it merely "a good game." Probably, Craig would have been more enthusiastic if (a) the Hoyas had won and (b) he hadn't regarded the work of one official with the same affection he probably displays for traffic jams on M Street.
It appears clear, however, that fans of the Hoyas and the 'Hoos are due for exciting winters. And if indeed they should find themselves staring at each other on a basketball court when March Madness ensues, just remember
Mr. Sweetney, Mr. Watson.
Mr. Watson, Mr. Sweetney.

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