Freshman Eric Smith, playing in place of injured Georgetown captain Steve Martin, made the big plays in the two overtime periods tonight to lead the Hoyas to a 63-54 victory over Holy Cross.
The victory gave the Hoyas their best regular season ever, 22-4, and a six-game winning streak to take into Wednesday's first round of the Eastern College Athletic Conference play-offs against Old Dominion.
Georgetown, after recovering from a five-point deficit midway in the second half, slowed the pace dramatically, holding the ball the final seven minutes of regulation.
Smith almost won it then, rebounding John Duren's desperation shot on the slippery Hart Recreation Center floor. But referee Dick Lynch ruled that time expired.
In the first overtime, which consisted of two possessions and two points each, Smith countered two Ron Perry free throws with a 12-foot jump shot over Dave Mulquin as time expired.
The Hoyas had to scramble to get that shot. The basket came after Eric Floyd missed an 18-foot jump shot and chased down the batted-away rebound of his miss in the Georgetown back court with eight seconds to play. The Hoyas then hustled and worked the ball to Smith.
"I thought we had it won in the first overtime," said Holy Cross Coach George Blaney. "But Smith came up with a great shot."
"The confidence was the key thing," said Smith, former All-Met basketball and football star from Churchill High School. "I'd made the shot at the end of regulation. I had my confidence. I wasn't afraid to shoot the ball."
And when he was presented an open shot after Georgetown controlled the tip starting the second overtime, Smith was not afraid to shoot again. And he made it, a 14-footer, that put the Hoyas ahead, 53-51.
With a successful basket in regulation, Smith finished without a miss in his three shots for the game.
The slippery floor, caused by condensation, played havoc and neither team could score for its next two possessions, but a rebound foul on John O'Connor gave Georgetown the ball with 1:09 to play.
What Georgetown Coach John Thompson feared most about losing Martin was Georgetown's ability to attack Holy Cross' full-court zone press, as the Hoyas had done so well in rolling up four straight victories over the Crusaders.
Martin has done this chore so well the past two seasons, with excellent instincts and execution.
So, Smith neatly broke the fullcourt zone press. He passed long, to Duren near midcourt. The Hoya point guard passed to Ed Spriggs and he fed Craig Shelton for a slam dunk and a 55-51 Georgetown lead.
From that point, it was just a matter of Georgetown making its free throws. And the Hoyas did, hitting eight in a row for the final margin.
Without Martin, however, Georgetown's offense suffered because it could not get the ball to Shelton inside. That problem was compounded greatly by a Holy Cross zone defense that sagged neatly on the Hoya star forward.
Georgetown also could not get its running game in order or do much damage on the offensive backboards. In the first half, in which there were 14 lead changes, Georgetown got zero points from offensive rebounds and only four as a result of fast breaks.
The Hoyas also found themselves trailing, 47-42, following successive baskets by Perry, a junior guard whose 23 points moved him into second place on the Holy Cross all-time scoring list.
Duren, who led Georgetown with 22 points, hit a jumper reducing the margin to 47-44. Then the 6-3 junior stole a pass and missed a jump shot, but Shelton turned it into a three-point play for a deadlock at 47 with 8:37 to play.
Two possessions later, after Perry missed an 18-footer, Thompson ordered his team into a delay game. He said later it had three purposes: make Holy Cross come out of its zone (which the Crusaders didn't do for more than five minutes); give Duren, who played 49 minutes, some rest, and decrease the maneuvering on the slick floor.
When Holy Cross finally went man to man Georgetown ended the stall and Duren made an 18-foot jumper with 1:35 to play. Perry countered with a 16-footer 20 seconds later, and the Hoyas held the ball for the final shot.
However, Perry knocked the basketball loose from Duren with about six seconds to play, so the Hoya guard had to recover it and launch a 30-foot prayer from the sideline. That was the shot recovered by Smith and put back up at the buzzer.
Referee Lynch said the ball had not left Smith's hand when time expired.
Afterward, commenting on Smith's performance, Martin said: "He took care of it well."
And what Smith didn't do, such as provide Martin's usual half-dozen rebounds or so, Floyd took care of with a career high of 14 rebounds.
Holy Cross finished the regular season at 17-9 with only the sixth loss in 51 games at four-year-old Hart Center. Georgetown is the first team to beat the Crusaders twice here.