Every game brings the same overall offensive recipe for the Georgetown Hoyas toss the ball in to Mike Sweetney and let him go to work. But as they learned this season in two losses to Pittsburgh, teams are going to collapse on the big man and force him to give up the ball.
Georgetown got a reassuring sign yesterday that the necessary support is there. Forward Gerald Riley scored a career-high 21 points to complement Sweetney’s 27 points and 10 rebounds, carrying the Hoyas to a relatively easy 84-77 defeat of West Virginia at MCI Center.
The Hoyas (14-7, 5-4 Big East) have now won five of seven games and will have six days to prepare for Notre Dame, which visits Saturday.
Wesley Wilson (10 points, 10 rebounds) added his first double-double in conference play for Georgetown, which jumped out to a 13-4 lead. Though the Mountaineers (8-12, 1-7) closed within five points in the final minute, the Hoyas’ victory was never in doubt in the second half.
Riley made seven of his first nine shots, including three 3-pointers, and added eight rebounds and four steals. Riley has had his share of good games but has also been a non-factor in several games; yesterday was his first double-digit scoring effort in five games.
“He was sensational today. He came out, rebounded the ball better, handled the ball better under pressure, stroked the jump shot,” Sweetney said.
Riley suffered from painful wrists early in the season but is healthy now.
Coach Craig Esherick said he was pleased with Riley’s rebounding and it was just a matter of time before he started shooting well.
“Before the game, I was feeling real good, and I was in the right position at the right time and hit a couple shots,” Riley said.
Sweetney battled double-teams with his usual combination of power and finesse, absorbing the bumps and shoves while still managing to squeeze off good shots when he wasn’t fouled.
West Virginia’s awareness of Sweetney’s prowess resulted in weakside defenders sagging toward the lane, but it only opened things up for the Hoyas, freeing lanes and shot opportunities.
If teams play Sweetney with just one defender, “they’re in trouble. Two people aren’t stopping Mike,” point guard Kevin Braswell said.
Said Esherick: “We could shoot 80 free throws because Mike gets fouled an awful lot. I wish I could say what I wanted to say about that but I can’t, because I want to be able to coach the [next] game.”
Braswell played just six minutes in the first half because of two early fouls but made up for his absence in the second. Nearly all of his six assists were of the highlight variety, the best of which came midway through the second half on a no-look over-the-shoulder heave to Courtland Freeman, who threw down a dunk. Braswell finished with nine points and two steals in 24 minutes.
The cellar-dwelling Mountaineers were no match for Sweetney and Georgetown inside, and they had no choice but to foul, giving the Hoyas a 42-6 advantage in free throws attempted. Chris Moss posted 20 points and 11 rebounds in trying his best to hold his own inside.
Georgetown outrebounded West Virginia 45-35.
Just about the only downside was the play of freshman guards Tony Bethel and Drew Hall, who combined to make just two of 11 shots and commit six turnovers. At one point in the first half, Esherick inserted little-used guard Trenton Hillier because Braswell and Hall, who Esherick said is suffering from a nagging shoulder injury, had two fouls each.
The Hoyas could enter their one-week break with the satisfaction of clearly handling a team they knew they should beat. But there’s plenty of work ahead.
“We’re more focused now, and as a team, collectively, we’re playing a lot better,” Braswell said.