- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 7, 2004

For Georgetown’s battered basketball team, eight wasn’t enough to keep the Hoyas out of the Big East tournament.

Georgetown’s longest losing streak in 33 years reached that length when Virginia Tech took advantage of the Hoyas’ mistakes in the closing minutes for a 60-55 victory yesterday before a pro-Hokies crowd of 11,286 at MCI Center. The loss marked Georgetown’s second losing regular season since 1972-73, Hall of Fame coach John Thompson’s first year on the Hilltop.

Nonetheless, the Hoyas gained the 12th and final spot in next week’s Big East tournament when West Virginia defeated host Miami 58-53 last night to cost the Hurricanes the berth in their final Big East season before moving to the ACC.

Georgetown (13-14, 4-12 Big East) will need at least two wins in the tournament to become NIT eligible. The Hoyas will play Boston College (21-8, 10-6) 2:30 p.m. Wednesday in the first round at Madison Square Garden. In their only meeting, the Eagles dealt the Hoyas their first loss of the season, 72-64 at MCI on Jan.6.

Against mediocre Virginia Tech (14-13, 6-10), the Hoyas scored five points in the final 6:21.

“I knew this year was definitely going to be a challenge,” said senior guard Gerald Riley, a four-year starter. “It’s not the way to [finish your career], but what more can you say? What happened, happened.”

The Hoyas ended the regular season with a whimper, failing to reach 60 points in any of their final seven games.

After a dubious 10-0 start against an assortment of nonconference lightweights, reality set in when Big East play started. Georgetown went 3-14 after Jan.6.

“When you’ve lost as many games as we’ve lost — and I try not to remember how many games we’ve lost — I think you have a crisis of confidence during a course of games and in practice,” coach Craig Esherick said. “It’s difficult, I think, for these guys to get themselves motivated during the games, and it’s difficult for me to get them motivated in terms of a game and in practice when you’ve [had] loss after loss after loss.”

This one, at least, was preventable because Georgetown led 55-53 with 2:15 left. But then the Hoyas lost complete control.

After Virginia Tech forward Bryant Matthews missed on a one-and-one, Georgetown’s Brandon Bowman snatched the ball but traveled after landing. The turnover changed the game because Matthews then nailed a 3-pointer from the left wing as the shot clock expired to give the Hokies the lead for good at 56-55. Matthews led all scorers with 26 points on 10-for-20 shooting.

“I just think we wore them down,” Matthews said. “We know they’re not the Georgetown of the past. They work hard, but they go through stretches where they are just not Georgetown.”

With Virginia Tech holding its one-point lead, Georgetown center Courtland Freeman missed an 8-foot turnaround jumper from the left baseline. Then with 1:01 left and Georgetown trailing 58-55, Riley missed a potential game-tying jumper from the top of the key.

With Georgetown trailing by four with 24 seconds left, Bowman, who led the Hoyas with 19 points, turned the ball over on the baseline on an ill-advised pass back into the lane. And with the Hoyas still behind 59-55, sophomore point guard Ashanti Cook turned it over in the open floor with 13 seconds left.

“We didn’t do what we needed to do — we didn’t take care of business on our end,” Freeman said of Georgetown’s numerous late-game breakdowns. “It hurts, but there is nothing we can do about it now.”

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