Late run dooms men’s basketball in loss to No. 11 West Virginia

December 6, 2020

Photo by John Picker/The Georgetown Voice

The Georgetown Hoyas men’s basketball team (1-2, Big East) suffered a difficult 80-71 defeat at the hands of the No. 11 West Virginia Mountaineers (4-1, Big 12) on Sunday evening at McDonough Arena. Turnovers, foul trouble, and a late West Virginia run ultimately did the Hoyas in. Sophomore guard Miles McBride led West Virginia with 17 points, 7 rebounds, and 7 assists, while senior forward Derek Culver still finished with 14 points and 8 rebounds despite playing just four minutes in the first half. Senior guard Jahvon Blair paced the Hoyas with 19 points, and senior forward Jamorko Pickett chipped in with 11 points and 8 rebounds of his own.

The game began with promise for the Hoyas, who induced a travel on West Virginia’s first possession and a steal on the next. Sophomore center Qudus Wahab opened the scoring with a hook shot, and Pickett sunk a three at the top of the key to put the Hoyas ahead early, 5-0. West Virginia responded with a 9-3 run keyed by five points from McBride and two Hoyas turnovers.

The two teams continued to trade baskets, with Wahab attracting attention down low and Pickett connecting on another three. Graduate guard Donald Carey got on the board with a three just before the under-12 timeout to retake the lead, 17-15. In the early going, McBride and junior forward Emmitt Matthews, Jr. kept the Mountaineers close. Foul trouble plagued both teams early, with Wahab going to the bench after two quick fouls and Culver relegated to the bench for the same reason.

Towards the end of the half, graduate forward Chudier Bile knocked down a three with time winding down on the shot clock to give the Hoyas a four-point lead, but McBride pushed the ball and drew a foul, making both free throws to draw West Virginia within two at the half, 34-32. Both teams struggled with their shooting from the field (36.7% FG for Georgetown, 31.3% for West Virginia) and at the free throw line (60.0% FT for Georgetown, 69.2% for West Virginia). The Hoyas limited West Virginia to three offensive rebounds and three second-chance points. Additionally, Culver and sophomore forward Oscar Tshiebwe played only 13 minutes combined and had just 3 points between them in the first half.

“For the most part, I thought we did a very good job of defending [the post],” said Georgetown Head Coach Patrick Ewing. “Both of them [Culver and Tshiebwe] are two of the most dominant bigs in the country and we did a very good job of digging, doubling, and mixing up our coverage in limiting them.”

Blair came out of the halftime break on a mission, swiftly draining two three-pointers in the early going. Culver and Tshiebwe countered with a couple baskets down low, but graduate guard Jalen Harris responded with a flying slam dunk to put the Hoyas up by five. The pace of the game increased dramatically in the early part of the second half as the teams traded baskets once again. Georgetown opened up a six-point lead with sophomore center Timothy Ighoefe’s shot in the paint, but McBride answered with a three and found Tshiebwe down low on the next possession to draw West Virginia within 1.

The Mountaineers continued their momentum, capping a 10-0 run with an alley-oop dunk from McBride to Matthews before Jalen Harris stopped the bleeding with a 3-pointer. That would turn out to be the beginning of a 7-0 run for Georgetown, bookended by a three from Pickett. West Virginia went back to what had worked for them all season, with baskets down low from Culver and Tshiebwe putting them back in the lead, 58-57.

The Hoyas fought back and Ighoefe converted a three-point play with a slam dunk and the free throw after. Junior guard Sean McNeil drew a foul on freshman guard Dante Harris and tied the game at 60 with two free throws of his own. Matthews blew by Pickett and skied for the dunk over Ighoefe, but Pickett answered with a jump hook to keep the game tied at 62.

The defining run came at the end of the game, a 14-4 run by West Virginia before the Hoyas were forced to start fouling. It started with senior guard Taz Sherman’s 3-pointer and included six points from Culver. Perhaps more importantly, Ighoefe fouled out of the game and the Hoyas had to rely on Wahab, playing with four fouls at that point. Blair’s 3-pointer at the end of the game was not nearly enough, and the Hoyas fell, 80-71.

When asked about what caused West Virginia’s last run, Ewing bluntly said, “Turnovers and lack of defensive intensity.”

Indeed, turnovers and foul trouble were the main story again for the Hoyas, as West Virginia shot 33 free throws and got 21 points off of Georgetown’s 15 turnovers. Wahab and Pickett both had four fouls, while Carey and Jalen Harris had 4 turnovers apiece. By contrast, West Virginia entered the double bonus with 4:52 remaining in the second half and turned the ball over just five times all game.

“Definitely not happy with the decision-making because we turned the ball over on the run. If we’re going to run, we have to make the right decisions,” said Ewing.

On the other side, McBride turned in a spectacular effort, keeping West Virginia in the game early while Culver and Tshiebwe were sidelined. Matthews and Sherman brought great energy for the Mountaineers as well, making key contributions down the stretch.

“I watch Deuce [Miles McBride] countless days, he puts in so much work over the summer,” said Matthews. “When it comes down to crunch time like that, I have absolute faith in Deuce McBride to make a play.”

Georgetown will look to break their losing streak with another home game on Tuesday against the Eagles of Coppin State (0-3, MEAC). Tipoff is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. and the game will be televised on FS1. For continued coverage of men’s basketball and all Georgetown sports, follow @GUVoiceSports on Twitter.

Nathan Chen
is the Sports Executive. He was born and bred in the DC Sports Bog and is ready to die in it.

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