Georgetown-West Virginia: Mountaineers Outlast Hoyas To Win 1st Title

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Georgetown-West Virginia: Mountaineers Outlast Hoyas To Win 1st Title
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Maybe playing on three consecutive nights in three close games proved to be better than playing for four straight games, with three of those four games being decided by wider margins of victory.

So was the case for No. 6 West Virginia, as the Mountaineers won its first Big East tournament title over No. 22 Georgetown, 60-58, on a layup by star Da'Sean Butler with 4.3 seconds left Saturday night.

The Hoyas seemed to be in control early in the first half, leading by seven at one point, 8-1. Sophomore phenom Greg Monroe scored or was involved in the first few shots, as the Mountaineers looked out of sync, not connecting on any of its field goals.

But after Georgetown got complacent, West Virginia mounted a strong comeback on a 19-11 run of its own to lead at halftime, 32-28.

That turnaround is credited to head coach Bob Huggins, who had power forward Wellington Smith (11 points, 10 rebounds) guard Monroe tightly, shutting him down for at least the last 10 minutes of the first half.

The second half was much more exciting, although Georgetown never reclaimed the lead. The largest margin that West Virginia led by was nine points, 43-34, with 12:30 to go.

With 12 minutes left, however, Georgetown kept the came close, denying the Huggins-coached team of mostly New York-New Jersey-bred players from blowing the Hoyas out.

At 11:30, Georgetown was down by four points, 43-39.

At 10:00, Georgetown, on a 7-0 run for close to two minutes, scored again, 43-41.

The two teams went back and forth in reaching closer to the Big East championship, with the Hoyas on a 10-2 run with four minutes left, 52-49.

With two minutes left, Georgetown was down by one, 52-51, and did not tie the game until Austin Freeman (14 points, two steals) hit a clutch three-pointer with 53.1 seconds left, 56-56.

The title shifted in West Virginia's favor at first when Chris Wright fouled Joe Mazzulla with 27.6 seconds left. Mazzulla hit both free throws, leading to a 58-56 score.

Wright, who led his team with 20 points and seven assists, overcame the embarrassment of fouling Mazzulla earlier.

Off a dazzling spin move, the small guard tied the game again, 58-58, on a bank-shot floater with 17 seconds left.

That was the last time that Georgetown came so close to winning the game and title.

As West Virginia's chances of winning it all exponentially got better, they almost disappeared just as quickly when Butler missed a three-point attempt, with both teams in a mad scramble for the loose ball afterwards.

When the sixth-ranked Mountaineers regained possession, Huggins, knowing that the game was still in his team's control, was forced to a call a timeout with nine ticks left on the clock.

That seemed to be the best move, as Butler, just a few feet from the free throw line, sashayed his way to the basket, scoring on an improbably well-contested shot (and game-winner) for the final score of 60-58.

Wright had a chance to tie the game again with mere seconds remaining, but fell short as time ran out.

West Virginia made the same number of free throws and three-point field goals as Georgetown, 14 and four, respectively. But it also played more proficiently on defense and dominated the boards, grabbing 36 rebounds (19 offensive) to the Hoyas' 19.

The Mountaineer bench had an extremely important role, too, adding 15 points from four different players, compared to the Hoyas' seven points from two substitutes.

Although shut out of a Big East-record eight tourney wins and Monroe was not as much of a factor as in the semifinals against Marquette (11 points and six rebounds), the Hoyas will likely receive a high seed in the upcoming NCAA Tournament.

In the meantime, this win was a sure homecoming for most of the Mountaineers at Madison Square Garden on Saturday, with six of their players representing either New York or New Jersey, including Big East tournament MVP Butler (20 points on 7-of-19 field goals, 5-for-5 from the line).

It is interesting to see if their first title will result in a No. 1 seed tomorrow on Selection Sunday. 

West Virginia's Kevin Jones had 14 points and Devin Ebanks finished the game with eight rebounds.

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