- The Washington Times - Monday, February 13, 2006

The 15th-ranked Hoyas went frigid from the field down the stretch against No. 9 West Virginia, a 5:26 scoring drought in crunch time condemning them to a 69-56 loss to the league-leading Mountaineers (18-5, 9-1 Big East).

The Hoyas (17-5, 8-3) have little time to bemoan the end of their seven-game win streak with road trips to Marquette (Thursday) and Villanova (Sunday) looming.

“There’s a lot we can take from this loss, and we’ve got to take that and move on,” Georgetown coach John Thompson III said after watching his Hoyas follow a torrid first-half shooting performance (59.3 percent) with one of their most hapless shooting halves of the season (24.2 percent). “We missed shots in the second half. We got some open looks with our guys that are good shooters that didn’t go in. … And then we got into a stretch, which we haven’t done too much late in games, where we just kept taking 3s instead of going to the basket.”

Frankly, it would be hard to find such disparate halves in anyone’s annals, much less those of Georgetown hoops. The first half was a virtual opus on both ends of the floor. Not only did the Hoyas shoot at an outrageous clip, they recorded 13 assists on 16 field goals, outrebounded the visitors (16-12), committed just five turnovers and trumped an solid performance by the Mountaineers with a 20-2 run that staked the Hoyas to a 37-29 halftime lead.

“That is one terrific basketball team,” West Virginia’s John Beilein said after the game. “They way they played in that first half was just unbelievable. We didn’t have any answers for it, and I’m sitting there thinking to myself, ‘Wow, that’s why they beat Duke.’”

But a seemingly different team showed up for the second frame. A substantial measure of credit must go to Beilein and the Mountaineers for some superb halftime adjustments. After being shredded by the Hoyas in the opening half, the Mountaineers left their signature 1-3-1 zone defense in the locker room and switched exclusively to a sagging man-to-man in the second half.

The switch was an open invitation to Georgetown to hoist 3-pointers, and the Hoyas simply fell so in love with the notion that they forgot to run their offense.

West Virginia began the half with a 10-0 run to take the lead, grabbed the reins for good at 44-42 on a 3-pointer by 6-foot-10 gunner Kevin Pittsnogle (25 points on 10-for-15 shooting) with 13:30 left, then marched to a runaway victory while the Hoyas chucked one errant bomb after another.

The decisive Georgetown drought came after sophomore forward Jeff Green (21 points, 10 rebounds) threw down a breakaway jam with 6:09 left to cut the West Virginia lead to 54-51.

The Hoyas would not score against until a layup from Brandon Bowman (15 points, 11 rebounds) with 43 seconds remaining. The 5:26 drought included eight straight misses from the field, including six 3-pointers, and allowed the Mountaineers to turn a dogfight into a laugher (62-51) behind Pittsnogle and some wonderfully efficient offensive sets.

“They are a very experienced and poised basketball team, and that’s what happens when you have a good coach and six seniors,” Thompson said. “No matter what, they run their stuff.”

The Hoyas, in contrast, lost their offensive flow during the miserable second-half stretch. They stood around, hoisted 3s and generally watched Green singlehandedly attempt to keep them in the game.

“It’s a tough loss, but maybe we’ll see them again down the road and have a better outcome,” Green said after the Mountaineers completed a season sweep of the Hoyas. “Right now, we’ve just got to move on and get ready for Marquette.”

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