- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 17, 2002

PHILADELPHIA The Georgetown Hoyas can't take too many more of these. For the second time in three games, Georgetown went to overtime against a Big East foe to which it really can't afford to lose if it wants to keep its NCAA tournament hopes alive. For the second time, the Hoyas came up short.
Yesterday Mike Sweetney scored a game-high 31 points and almost carried the Hoyas to victory, but Villanova made its last six field goals in regulation and romped in the extra session, thwarting Georgetown 83-72 before 14,527 at First Union Center.
The Hoyas absorbed their second demoralizing defeat in eight days after losing to Notre Dame in four overtimes Feb. 9. However, a sympathy vote for Georgetown, 15-9 overall and 6-6 in the Big East with four games remaining, from the NCAA selection committee is unlikely.
"In these close games, you have to find a way to pull them off," Sweetney said. "We were right there. We just made little mistakes."
Georgetown, which lost to Villanova for the fifth time in six games, fought back from an 11-point halftime deficit to lead 64-59 with 36 seconds to play. But then the Hoyas allowed two 3-pointers, including one by 6-foot-10 center Brooks Sales in his first attempt of the season, to give the Wildcats a chance.
After Harvey Thomas made one of two free throws for a 67-65 Hoyas lead, Villanova's Derrick Snowden weaved his way up the length of the floor for a tying layup with 2.5 seconds to play.
In overtime, Villanova had the first six points and outscored the Hoyas 16-5. Georgetown missed 15 of its 17 field goal attempts in the extra session, and coach Craig Esherick said his team's youth contributed to some mistakes.
"There was a defensive breakdown on [the two 3-pointers]," Esherick said. "That's something, with experience, I think we'll be able to solve."
Sweetney, who played just nine minutes in the first half because of foul trouble, rallied the Hoyas from their lowest scoring first half in more than two years. The Big East's most complete power forward bulled his way around and through Villanova's post players for 23 second-half points and gave his team every opportunity to win.
But he had little help. The Hoyas shot 5-for-30 from 3-point range, and starting forward Gerald Riley missed all eight of his attempts. Starting guards Kevin Braswell and Tony Bethel combined to make five of 24 shots.
"Without Sweetney, it's like they don't really have an identity," said Villanova forward Ricky Wright, who had a team-high 22 points. "When he's not in there, that's when you have to make your run and make them pay for him being on the bench."
Remarkably, both teams weathered extensive field goal droughts. After Harvey Thomas hit a jumper and a free throw at the 11:15 mark for a 14-12 Georgetown lead, the visitors went the next 10:50 without making another field goal. Thomas scored again to make it 27-20, but Wright scored twice in the final 17 seconds for a 31-20 Villanova lead at halftime.
Villanova had its biggest lead at 45-31 with 13:54 to go but did not score from the field for the next 9:57 as the Hoyas eventually grabbed a 53-52 lead with 4:11 left. Snowden, a sophomore, kept the Wildcats in it by scoring 13 of his 15 points in the final 7:13.
Two freshman guards, Bethel and Drew Hall, were the crux of Georgetown's outstanding defensive play in the second half. The pair, along with Braswell, combined for seven steals and helped force 11 second-half Villanova turnovers.
But there is no solace for the Hoyas, whose margin for error in the final four games is very small should they still harbor NCAA hopes.
"We're still in the ballgame. Selection Sunday is not until the ninth or 10th of March," Esherick said. "We've got a lot of basketball left to play. We have a good team."


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