- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 13, 2002

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. Georgetown came within 10 minutes of an unwanted NIT bid last night.
With 10:02 remaining against Seton Hall, the Hoyas faced a 10-point deficit and total desperation. It was obvious that Saturday's epic quadruple-overtime loss to Notre Dame had left star power forward Mike Sweetney sapped of his usual spunk. The 6-foot-8, 260-pound sophomore, who had just one field goal against the Pirates, simply didn't have the energy to shoulder the load against Seton Hall.
His shots fell short. His passes lacked zip. His moves looked choreographed in molasses.
Sweetney's legs clearly had been savaged by his 49-minute, 35-point, 20-rebound performance against the Irish. And with 10:02 remaining last night, the Hoyas trailed by 10, Sweetney was spent and the team with no more margin for error in the loss column looked doomed to defeat. But just when it looked like the Hoyas would fade even further from the NCAA tournament picture, blue and gray reinforcements arrived. And for the first time all season, that stretch-run cavalry consisted of more than just senior point guard Kevin Braswell.
Buoyed by the tandem of junior center Wesley Wilson and freshman shooting guard Tony Bethel, the Hoyas picked up their languid leader and rallied to dispatch Seton Hall 84-77 at Continental Airlines Arena. The victory not only keeps the Hoyas (15-8, 6-5 Big East) alive in the NCAA tournament's at-large pool heading into Saturday's game at Villanova, it also signals a watershed in the development of Sweetney's supporting cast.
"Those guys came up huge tonight," said Braswell of Wilson and Bethel. "Everybody on this team played their guts out against Notre Dame, and some of us were definitely still feeling it. Mike played like 49 minutes against ND, and I played 53. I looked at him early tonight, and he looked tired. And I knew how I felt. My legs were gone with 10 minutes left in the second half. … We pulled it out because other guys grew up out there tonight."
Of the Hoyas' two heroes, Bethel (12 points) arrived first. After Georgetown had clawed from 62-52 to within three (67-64) with 5:00 remaining, the 6-2 freshman from Fort Washington collected a loose ball around halfcourt and drove fearlessly to the basket, leaning through a retreating Seton Hall defender to collect both a hoop and a foul. Bethel tied the game from the line, and then seconds later, gave the Hoyas a lead they would never relinquish.
Belying his youth, Bethel swiped the ball from Seton Hall point man Andre Barrett on the game's next possession, and then delivered a perfect pass to a streaking Braswell (19 points).
"Barrett had started feeling comfortable with the ball, because he's so quick and we had been laying off him," said Bethel. "I waited for his eyes to flick upcourt and took a chance that worked out."
Braswell, who like Sweetney (12 points) tallied most of his points at the free throw line, converted the layup to put the Hoyas ahead 69-67 with 4:37 remaining.
Enter Wilson. While the Pirates (12-12, 5-7) seemed to forget senior center Charles Manga (career-high 23 points and 15 rebounds) down the stretch, Georgetown cemented its comeback by feeding its 6-11 center. Wilson (18 points, nine rebounds) scored Georgetown's final four field goals of the game, dominating the smaller Pirates inside with both his body position and his footwork. Wilson, who has spent all season struggling with consistency in Sweetney's shadow, delivered the dagger with 45 seconds remaining, dropping a fallaway jumper to put the Hoyas ahead 78-71.
"Mike is so good that they were concentrating on him very heavily," said Wilson. "They had like three men on him, collapsing and hacking at him every time he touched it. But they really weren't paying any attention to me, so I just tried to take advantage of that."
After Wilson pushed the lead to seven, Seton Hall had no choice but to employ the foul-and-fling strategy, and Braswell and Co. made them pay by finishing the night 28 of 31 from the line.
"Yeah, I'm going to be very popular on the lecture circuit this summer giving free-throw clinics," said Georgetown coach Craig Esherick, chuckling about the program's total reversal from tradition at the line under his tutelage before reverting to more serious matters. "This was a really good win for us because of the way we responded after being down 10 points on the road well into the second half. They're all big [games] from here on in."


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