Georgetown, trailing by seven points with three minutes to play, made two steals against the St. Peter's delay game and nipped the Peacocks, 62-60, tonight.
The victory broke a two-game losing streak for the Hoyas, whose 17th victory in 21 games prompted Coach John Thompson to say afterward: "I don't know what it is about them. St. Peter's is a giant-killer. They get up for good teams. When you're in a little slump, you win any way you can."
For Georgetown tonight, that was star forward Craig Shelton being where he wasn't supposed to be in the game's final minute as St. Peter's, now 10-11, spread to the four-corner delay with a one-point lead, 60-59.
Shelton had four fouls and the last thing Thomson wanted was to have his ace inside scorer foul out chasing the ball on a double team. In fact, Shelton had been forced to act like a ballet dancer to avoid bumping a St. Peter's player near midcourt 15 seconds previously.
Now, with 35 seconds to play, there was Shelton running out to the midcourt line to help Eric Floyd double- team reserve guard Billy McDevitt. who had come in just for ball-handling purposes.
From behind him, Shelton tipped the ball away and fed Floyd for a breakaway dunk and a 61-60 Georgetown lead. The basket gave Floyd 21 points, breaking a personal two-game points, breaking a personal two-game slump and setting a school scoring record for freshmen. He has 347 points this season. Merlin Wilson scored 332 in the 1972-73 season.
"Craig was doing what he wasn't supposed to be doing," Thompson said. "But he did it well. He had four fouls; we didn't want him out there double teaming."
St. Peter's then took a timeout with 26 seconds left, plenty of time for the Peacocks to work for a good shot, as they had done the entire game, making 18 of their 28 baskets from five feet or closer.
St. Peter's had been finding holes in Georgetown's 1-3-1 zone trap defense to get players open near the basket. To counteract this, Georgetown's wings came out so close to midcourt that the defense appeared to be a 3-2.
The Peacocks passed the ball around with little success, before calling another timeout with nine seconds to play.
"I figured they would talk about a play against the zone. So we decided top lay man-to-man," Thompson said.
The first thing that surprised the Peacocks, Coach Bob Kelly said later, was that the Hoyas didn't contest the inbounds pass. St. Peter's wanted to get the pass to Tim Dooley, but the Georgetown strategy took that away.
With time running out and Georgetown guard John Duren playing excellent defense against him, St. Peter's guard Kevin Bannon shot an 18-foot prayer from the baseline. It missed and Hoya Ed Spriggs was fouled on the rebound, with one second to play.
He made the first free throw to account for the final margin.
Forward Jim Brandon of St. Peter's played the best game of anyone tonight, with 23 points, 10 rebounds, six assists, three blocked shots and one steal.
The Peacocks, upset winners previously on the road over Rutgers, Seton Hall and Holy Cross, found little consolation in coming so close to beating a nationally ranked team.
"Close is not good enough," Kelly said. "They did a super job. This has got to be one of our toughest losses... to have a seven-point lead with under four minutes and five-point lead under two minutes. They didn't foul and stole the ball."
Thompson said the Georgetown strategy was not to give a foul in that situation because he felt the Hoyas could come up with a steal. Floyd did when St. Peter's went to the four corners the first time with a three-point lead on the previous possession. Floyd had tapped in a Duren miss to make it 60-57 a few seconds earlier.
Duren did not shoot well tonight. He missed 12 of 16 attempts, but Floyd hit nine of 17 after missing in double figures twice last week, -- the first games under 10 points in his career.
The Hoyas came out tentatively tonight, making 10 of their total 16 turnovers in the game's first 19 possessions.
Floyd was bashful early, too, failing to take open shots after missing his initial attempt. Thompson took him out after eight minutes and told him: "You're going to shoot or you aren't going to play."
Floyd returned, made his next five shots, and like his team would at the end, broke out of his slump.