Mountaineers take down No. 9 Georgetown
MORGANTOWN - Bob Huggins was quick with the quip Saturday afternoon when someone asked him about his West Virginia basketball team's success against ranked opponents.
"It's great coaching,'' he couldn't help but say, just to raise a few eyebrows and get a laugh from the room.
He was also just as quick, though, to give credit where it was just as rightly due. And so after watching yet another virtuoso performance from a player who has been involved in most of those big wins since Huggins returned to his alma mater, he couldn't hold back his praise for Kevin Jones.
"People need to enjoy watching him because it's been a long time since we've had a guy putting up numbers like that,'' Huggins said. "He doesn't hunt shots. He just plays to win.''
Jones had another of those monster performances - this time 22 points and 16 rebounds - as West Virginia handed No. 9 Georgetown a 74-62 loss in front of a crowd of 10,526 at the Coliseum. It snapped the Hoyas' 11-game win streak, but shouldn't have been all that surprising. The Mountaineers have now won five straight against the Hoyas and Georgetown has been ranked every time.
According to Jones, there's no real secret to WVU's success against the Hoyas. In fact, in a Big East in which so many schools tend to crack the Top 25, games against ranked opponents are looked at not so much as challenges, but opportunities.
"I would like to think we get up for them,'' Jones said. "But the important thing is that it's another resume-builder for us. You take as many of these as you can get.''
For West Virginia (12-4, 3-1 Big East), the win was the 20th against a ranked opponent since Huggins arrived for the 2007-08 season. True, WVU has also lost 28 games against Top 25 teams in that span, but even a 20-28 mark against ranked teams is not too shabby.
Jones wasn't the only one who came up big, of course. Truck Bryant, he of the feast-or-famine performances, had a bit of both in just one afternoon Saturday. After struggling in the first half, he scored 19 of his 25 points in the second as the Mountaineers pulled away from the Hoyas after leading by slim margins most of the day.
West Virginia also shot 50 percent from the floor and held Georgetown (13-2, 3-1), one of the Big East's best-shooting teams, to just 40.4 percent and 2-for-14 from 3-point range.
"This is probably the best job we've done for the longest period in guarding,'' Huggins said. "And they're hard to guard, obviously. But we still have some lapses.''
By the time the Mountaineers had any serious lapses against the Hoyas on Saturday, though, it was already too late. West Virginia hadn't trailed since falling behind 4-0, but had struggled to remain tied or hold slim leads most of the rest of the way.
That finally changed when freshmen Gary Browne and Aaron Brown combined on a pair of free throws and Brown's 3-pointer stretched the margin to 49-41 with nine minutes to play. Bryant got involved with a 3-pointer, a drive and a pair of free throws, and it was 62-49 with less than 41/2 minutes to go.
That pretty much put the outcome to rest, although that was when the Mountaineers suffered the lapse that bothered Huggins, giving up a pair of inside baskets to cap a 9-0 Georgetown run that closed it to 62-58 with 2:28 to play. That was worrisome given that the Hoyas were coming off a Wednesday win over No. 20 Marquette in which they overcame a 17-point deficit.
But West Virginia broke a Georgetown press that had been a problem and Browne got a layup out of it. Then when the Mountaineers almost stunningly made 10 free throws in a row - they are next-to-last in the Big East in free-throw shooting and were 12-of-21 to that point - the suspense was over.
"For large stretches this year I think we've been a very good defensive team. And we were not a good defensive team today,'' Georgetown coach John Thompson III said. "They executed and our attention to detail on the defensive end wasn't where it needed to be to win the game.''
In addition to the combined 47 points from Bryant and Jones, West Virginia also got 12 from Browne. The Mountaineers won the rebounding battle 37-31, and forced 10 Georgetown turnovers in the first half. The Hoyas settled down and turned it over just five times after that, while WVU had nine of its 17 turnovers in the second half.
For West Virginia, there's not much time until the next test against a ranked opponent. The Mountaineers on Monday play No. 8 and defending national champion Connecticut at the XL Center in Hartford.
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or firstname.lastname@example.org.