- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 14, 2003

The Big East Conference apparently has a high tolerance for criticism because yesterday, despite his public blasting of the league's basketball officials on Sunday, Georgetown coach Craig Esherick avoided punishment.

Esherick's choice words for the officials in Sunday's 84-82 overtime win over West Virginia at MCI Center were broadcast numerous times yesterday on ESPN and the local news stations. After the game, the coach angrily confronted the three-man officiating crew near an elevator.

The coach's tirade drew a lot of attention to himself and the league's officials, but it might be masking Georgetown's real problem: Star power forward Mike Sweetney has little help, especially from Georgetown's 6-foot-11 center Wesley Wilson, from whom the Hoyas would like more production.

Esherick is crying foul over how referees perceive Sweetney, his preseason All-American, but the real issue is that Wilson needs to alleviate Sweetney's work load inside. If Wilson turned himself into an offensive threat, opponents would be less likely to triple-team Sweetney like the Mountaineers did on Sunday.

On the defensive end, Wilson, who is a physically intimidating presence, could save Sweetney from picking up cheap fouls by perhaps being more active inside, double-teaming when Sweetney's man has the ball, and working the defensive glass better.

"I want to figure out a way to get Wesley going," Esherick said.

Wilson played just two minutes the first two and never returned against the scrappy Mountaineers. Esherick said he pulled his center because West Virginia's 6-10 freshman center, Kevin Pittsnogle, nailed a 3-pointer from the top of the key to open the game and created a matchup problem.

After a nice four-game run [Dec. 16 to Dec. 31] when Wilson averaged 11.5 points and 8.7 rebounds against the likes of Norfolk State, Howard, Virginia and VMI, the Hoyas' tower has disappeared in Georgetown's last two. Last Wednesday against top-ranked Duke, Wilson finished with four points and four rebounds in 13 foul-plagued minutes. On Sunday, Wilson barely broke a sweat and missed the only shot he took.

"I thought Victor [Samnick] and Courtland [Freeman] both played well enough in the first half that I figured let's stick with them and we'll start Wesley again against Seton Hall and just go from there," Esherick said.

Tonight, when the Hoyas (9-2, 1-0 Big East) take on Seton Hall (5-7, 0-3) at Continental Airlines Arena, it will be interesting to see if Wilson shows up and if Esherick's outburst will change the way the Big East referees officiate the game, especially when it comes to Sweetney, Georgetown's leading scorer (21.5) and rebounder (9.8).

Given his dominant size and athleticism, senior Wilson should be Georgetown's second offensive option after Sweetney. Wilson is averaging 7.2 points and 5.8 rebounds, but Samnick, who is three inches shorter and 45 pounds lighter, is playing more minutes per game (19) than Wilson's 17.5 and posts comparable numbers in 5.2 points and 4.7 rebounds.

Samnick is the quintessential garbage man. He grabs loose balls, runs the floor, and crashes the offensive glass. If Wilson did that alone, his numbers would increase.

Aside from Wilson, Georgetown's perimeter players could also do a better job of helping Sweetney and keeping defenses honest. Freshman shooting guard Brandon Bowman, billed as a shooter, has struggled to 18.5 percent (five of 27) shooting from 3-point range and is scarcely better overall from the floor (25 of 77 for 32.5 percent).

Drew Hall, Georgetown's backup point guard, is a dreadful 16.7 percent 3-point shooter (four of 24) and is 13 of 42 (31 percent) from the floor. Combined, Bowman and Hall average an eye-opening 21.8 minutes per game.

Sweetney is looking more and more like an NBA lottery pick given the deficiencies around him and the fact that he has Georgetown 9-2 and the Hoyas could possibly be 11-0 if he didn't get in foul trouble in both of the losses.

"If there is room for improvement and a lot of room for improvement and you're 9-2, you're in a whole lot better shape than if you're playing on all cylinders and 5-4," Esherick said.

Notes Sweetney was named co-Big East player of the week along with Pittsburgh center Ontario Lett. In two games, Sweetney scored 58 points and pulled down 25 rebounds with seven blocks, five assists and four steals. Ashanti Cook, Georgetown's promising freshman guard, will not play tonight. Cook, who sat out Sunday's win over West Virginia, sprained his right ankle in the second half of last Wednesday's 93-86 loss at Duke.

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