- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 4, 2003

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. Get ready Broadway: Here come the Georgetown Hoyas.

In spite of their best efforts to self-destruct in the game's final three minutes, the Hoyas survived a furious second-half West Virginia rally and clinched a Big East tournament berth with their third straight road win 69-67 last night before 7,568 at WVU Coliseum.

Georgetown guard Gerald Riley scored a game-high 23 points, and forward Mike Sweetney added 18 points, 16 rebounds, five blocks and two steals. Combined, Georgetown's one-two punch held off the Mountaineers.

With this important road win, the Hoyas (14-12, 6-9 Big East) are also eligible for an NIT spot.

"Of course, if we don't win the Big East tournament, yes," coach Craig Esherick replied when asked whether Georgetown would accept an NIT bid this season after turning down one last season. "That's what I told them in the locker room after the game is now we've qualified for one postseason tournament, let's do what we can to try and qualify for two others the NIT and NCAAs."

With 3:08 left, the Hoyas enjoyed a comfortable 63-57 lead when things started to unravel against the Mountaineers (13-14, 4-11). The Hoyas turned the ball over on three straight possessions against the Mountaineers' 1-3-1 zone press.

Suddenly, the game was tied 63-63 with 1:22 left after Mountaineers freshman Kevin Pittsnogle threw down a two-handed dunk. But Georgetown won the game from the free throw line by making six of eight in the last 53 seconds.

The Mountaineers fell below .500 for the first time this season after their fifth straight loss and seventh in eight games. Still, they managed to keep the game close when it probably should not have been.

"We had a lot of lapses on the defensive end," Sweetney said of letting a 63-53 lead disappear with five minutes to play. "We always have these mental breakdowns, and they need to stop."

The final two seconds became interesting. With Georgetown leading 69-67 and 2.6 seconds on the clock, West Virginia tried to inbound the ball to midcourt, but Hoyas guard Drew Hall spiked the ball out of play. There was some confusion about how much time was left on the game clock.

After watching televised replays, the referees reduced the amount of time left from 2.4 seconds to 1.6 and gave West Virginia the ball at midcourt. Drew Schifino, West Virginia's leading scorer, tried a desperation 3-pointer to win the game, but it fell short.

The Hoyas dominated the first half. With Riley scoring from the outside and Sweetney (nine points, 11 rebounds, four blocks, two assists and two steals) pounding in the paint, the Mountaineers found themselves trailing by double digits most of the half.

Sweetney moved past Jameel Watkins and Jahidi White into sixth place on Georgetown's all-time blocked shot list with his four rejections in the first half and has 154 blocks in his career.

Riley, who came into this game averaging 14 points, equaled that in the first half alone. Riley made four of five 3-pointers in the first 20 minutes to lead all scorers. For the game, Riley made seven of 16 shots.

The Hoyas made 15 of 30 shots from the floor and probably should have led by more than the 39-28 halftime score. Seven turnovers and a couple of ill-advised bricks kept the game close.

West Virginia, meanwhile, made just four of 16 3-pointers in the half. Schifino, who averages 20.4 points, made only one of four 3-pointers in the half. Despite coming into the game as only the Big East's sixth-best 3-point shooting team, the Mountaineers appeared reliant on shooting from beyond the arc.

"If we don't make 3s, we're not going to win too many ball games," Mountaineers coach John Beilein said.

Georgetown's defense did a nice job of pressuring the ball and disrupting the Mountaineers' halfcourt offense. West Virginia was forced to set up further from the basket than they would have liked. As a result, Schifino finished the half with five points on 2-for-10 shooting.

In the first meeting of the season between these teams Jan. 12, Schifino scored a team-high 25 points in Georgetown's 84-82 overtime victory.

With Schifino ice-cold in the first half, the Mountaineers shot only 32.3 percent from the field. Pittsnogle, a 6-foot-10 freshman shooter from Martinsburg, W.Va., is the Mountaineers' second-leading scorer, and he also made only one of four 3s in the first half.

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