"I thought Georgetown was outstanding," said Marquette head coach Buzz Williams. "The absolutely annihilated us; annihilated us inside. Got beat by 20 on the boards. It's hard to beat a team when [they] score 50, 60% of your points in the paint." In addition to Monroe all three guards finished in double figures while Austin Freeman grabbed eight rebounds as well. Jimmy Butler led the Golden Eagles with 17 points but it was the rebounding and interior play that did in Marquette.
In the regular season meeting Marquette was able to do a solid job of defending Monroe, using well-timed double teams to limit him to nine points and ten rebounds in a 62-59 Golden Eagle victory. No such luck on Friday night, with the New Orleans native displaying his vast array of skills on both ends of the floor. But don't bother asking if it was a conscious decision to "take over" when he went on a personal run that included a driving dunk, a chase-down block and leading the fast break for another layup.
"It wasn't anything. It was opportunities that I took," said Monroe. "It wasn't anything [about] trying to take over. We had control of the game as a team and I was just trying to make winning plays to close out the game."
Next up for Georgetown is West Virginia, who outlasted Notre Dame 53-51 in the second half of the semifinal doubleheader. The Mountaineers out-rebounded the Irish 37-22 but weren't in the clear until Tory Jackson's three point attempts with just seconds remaining missed to the right. Da'Sean Butler led all scorers with 24 points while also contributing seven rebounds and three assists while Ben Hansbrough (17 points) and Luke Harangody (10 points) led the way off the bench for Notre Dame. The two teams combined for just fourteen turnovers in a game that was better played than the final score would indicate.
The difference outside of the rebounding may have been the possessions on which West Virginia played their 1-3-1 zone, which was by and large quite effective in getting Notre Dame out of their new-fangled offense. "It is something in their arsenal to kind of make us try and play a little faster," said Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey. "I don't know if we played faster, but our rhythm was a little different that playing against man-to-man and burning (the clock) against man."
It feels strange to watch a Notre Dame team that purposely wants to limit the number of possessions in a game and for some that may be "boring". But simply put: you do whatever it takes to win games, and Coach Brey's team won six straight before tonight with this new style. And with the experience of players such as Jackson and Harangody, the Irish could be a dangerous team next week given the right matchup (especially a team that lacks offensive/defensive discipline). "We want to take that momentum into the NCAA Tournament," said Hansbrough. "We just lost to the sixth-ranked team in the country by two points and had a shot to win it. It just shows how far this team has come."
9p ESPN #8 Georgetown vs. #3 West Virginia
Regular season meeting: West Virginia 81-68 (March 3rd in Morgantown)
How much can be taken out of that first meeting? Tough to say since the Hoyas were without Austin Freeman, falling behind big in the first half before falling short in their comeback attempt. Rest assured this is a far different (and far better) Georgetown squad than the one that was confused about the health of one of its' key players at the time. "Monroe is terrific," said WVU head coach Bob Huggins of tomorrow's opponent. "We jumped on them pretty good in Morgantown early and then they came out the second half and played extremely well against us. And Monroe was a large part of that."
With Monroe and Chris Wright combining for forty-three points in that contest it was obvious that the Hoyas missed having a third scorer. Also of note: Jason Clark, who made just two of six shots in that meeting, has played some of his best basketball all season this week. And don't expect Georgetown to turn the ball over twenty times as they did in that meeting. Given Georgetown's size this should be an even battle on the boards; how well the Hoyas execute against the many defenses that West Virginia may throw at them will likely determine the outcome.
West Virginia scored 24 points off of the aforementioned 20 Georgetown turnovers and was also a plus-13 (27-14) in points from the foul line. The presence of Freeman will have an impact on the rematch; how much will be seen Saturday night. As for how important this game is to both, you've got one of the flagship programs of the Big East (Georgetown) taking on a school that has five New York metropolitan-area starters (West Virginia; and this fact may be something that makes the fans as Rutgers, St. John's and Seton Hall cringe). "When you get to play in front of your friends and family, it's always a great thing," said WVU forward Kevin Jones.