West Virginia guard Juwan Staten (3) goes to the basket against Georgetown guard Jabril Trawick (55).
Georgetown guard D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera (4) dribbles the ball against West Virginia guard Gary Browne, center, and Juwan Staten (3) during the second half of an NCAA college NIT tournament first round basketball game, Tuesday, March 18, 2014, in Washington. Georgetown won 77-65. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
WASHINGTON - West Virginia's season came to a sudden and rather disappointing end Tuesday night when the Mountaineer failed to put up much of a fight down the stretch in what had been a close game with Georgetown.The resulting 77-65 loss in the first round of the National Invitational Tournament continued a rather bizarre pattern by the Mountaineers of play at their worst when it was least expected and sometimes at its best when there seemed even less a chance of doing so.Oh, and one more common thread: defense. Or, more specifically, the lack of defense."We haven't guarded all year,'' West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said after emerging from a long - even for him - session with his players after the loss. "If we can't outscore [opponents], we're not going to win. And that's a terrible way to play.''
The loss left WVU with a final 17-16 record. While that's an improvement over last season's 13-19 mark, it was a largely uneven season that included wins over three Top 25 teams, but also losses to very beatable teams.The game was played at McDonough Arena, a 2,500-seat gymnasium on the Georgetown campus. Despite the small capacity, there were empty seats and the official attendance was just 2,133.Juwan Staten led West Virginia with 23 points, seven assists and just three turnovers, a rather typical line this season for the junior point guard. Now the question becomes one of whether it was Staten's last game as a Mountaineer.Staten has already said that he will test the NBA waters and get an evaluation of his game and his draft status, and the answer he gets is likely to weigh heavily in his decision-making process. After Tuesday's loss, he wasn't willing to talk much about the process."I'm upset about the game we just lost,'' said Staten, a first-team All-Big 12 choice who improved dramatically from last season to this. "I'd rather talk about that later.''Besides defense, another West Virginia problem was shooting. That's no surprise either, given how much the Mountaineers rely on perimeter shooting and how most of their losses come when they don't shoot well."I look [at the boxscore] and Remi Dibo is 0 for 7 on 3s. Eron Harris is 2 for 7,'' Huggins said. "We're not going to win games shooting like that.''Dibo had 11 points for West Virginia, but all in the first half. Terry Henderson scored 13, but Harris, the team's leading scorer much of the season, had just 10 and couldn't get off open shots. In his last four games of the season, Harris scored 5, 28, 3 and 10 points. West Virginia won only the 28-point game, upsetting Kansas.Still, West Virginia led for much of the first half and early in the second before Georgetown finally got warmed up and went on a run, fueled both by its own hot shooting and its defense. The Hoyas at one point forced WVU into three turnovers in four possessions - including a 10-second call on its only foray into a full-court press - and the Mountaineers' lone shot in four possessions was a Dibo 3-pointer that was nearly down into the net before it popped back out.Meanwhile, Georgetown was going on an 8-0 run that turned a 36-33 WVU lead into a 41-36 deficit.The Hoya lead grew to as many as seven points in the next few minutes, and while that was certainly not insurmountable, West Virginia wasn't able to chip away at it much at all. Finally, at around the seven-minute mark, Georgetown pulled ahead by double figures and West Virginia never challenged.
Georgetown led by 17, 68-51, before West Virginia closed the deficit without ever threatening.
Much of the Georgetown dominance of the second half was thanks to guard D'Vaunte Smith-Rivera, who had 32 points and four 3-pointers after having just nine points on 2-of-7 shooting in the first half. When asked if it was a challenge guarding Smith-Rivera, Huggins pointed to his final stat line."It wasn't much of a challenge for him,'' Huggins said.In truth, what Smith-Rivera and the Hoyas did in the second half they could have done in the first, as well, except that they just didn't make shots. The fact is, WVU's defense wasn't any better when it was leading 33-30 at the half than when it trailed by a game-high 17 points, 68-51, in the final minutes."We were getting the shots we wanted and the looks we wanted, but we were giving them the same things,'' said Staten, who played without much apparent pain on the ankle he sprained in last week's loss to Texas in the Big 12 tournament. "It wasn't like they weren't getting what they wanted. They just weren't making the shots.''In the first half, Staten and Dibo were West Virginia's only offensive weapons, but that was enough to give the Mountaineers the edge over Georgetown at the break because of that shooting. The Hoyas made just 37 percent of their shots in the first 20 minutes.
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or email@example.com or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1. GEORGETOWN 77, WEST VIRGINIA 65
FG FT Reb
WVU Min M-A M-A O-T A PF PTSDibo 31 4-12 3-4 0-3 2 2 11Williams 19 1-1 1-2 1-8 0 4 3Adrian 18 0-1 2-4 3-4 1 5 2Staten 38 8-13 6-10 0-1 7 2 23Harris 32 4-10 0-0 1-2 0 3 10Browne 12 0-1 0-0 0-0 0 2 0Henderson 28 5-11 0-0 2-4 0 3 13Watkins 4 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 2 0Noreen 18 0-0 3-4 0-3 0 4 3Totals 200 22-49 15-24 8-29 10 27 65Percentages: FG .449, FT .625. 3-point goals: 6-21, .286 (Henderson 3-5, Harris 2-7, Staten 1-1, Adrian 0-1, Dibo 0-7). Team rebounds: 4. Blocked shots: 2 (Henderson, Noreen). Turnovers: 12 (Dibo 3, Staten 3, Watkins 2, Harris 2, Adrian, Henderson). Steals: 1 (Adrian). FG FT RebGEORGETOWN Min M-A M-A O-T A PF PTSHopkins 29 4-4 1-3 0 3 6Smith-Rivera 37 9-17 10-10 4-10 1 2 32Lubick 29 2-2 1-4 1-5 1 3 5Starks 39 4-17 5-5 2-7 7 3 14Trawick 36 4-8 3-4 0-4 5 4 12Bowen 19 2-4 0-1 1-2 0 4 5Ayegba 11 1-1 1-2 0-0 0 2 3Totals 200 23-52 24-30 10-34 14 21 77Percentages: FG .442, FT .800. 3-point goals: 7-19, .368 (Smith-Rivera 4-8, Bowen 1-1, Trawick 1-4, Starks 1-6). Team rebounds: 3. Blocked shots: 6 (Starks 2, Hopkins 2, Trawick, Ayegba). Turnovers: 8 (Starks 2, Smith-Rivera 2, Trawick, Bowen, Ayegba). Steals: 8 (Starks 2, Trawick 2, Smith-Rivera 2, Bowen, Ayegba).Halftime: WVU 33, Georgetown 30. Attendance: 2,133.