Early in the playoff game at Cole Field House yesterday it appeared to have been too much to ask of Ed Spriggs that he fill in for Tom Scates, the injured Georgetown center.
First Roosevelt Bouie, the 6-foot-11 Syracuse center, took a lob pass and dunked the ball over Spriggs. Then Louis Orr slam dunked an offensive rebound, Bouie dunked in a couple more lobs and Syracuse was on top, 16-12.
Georgetown was getting beaten badly inside.
"That just proved what a dominating force Tom (Scates) is for us," said forward Craig Shelton. "They never would have done that if Scates was playing."
They didn't do it much more on the 6-9 Spriggs, either.
Recovering from his bad start, Spriggs settled down and played Bouie even. And down the stretch it was he and another freshman, forward Jeff Bullis, who took control of the inside game and helped the Hoyas win, 66-58.
Bullis played the final 5:42 for Shelton, who had fouled out, and scored nine points, seven from the foul line.
Spriggs had five of his eight points in the last five minutes.
"I just tried to keep him (Bouie) away from the boards," Spriggs said. "He had the height on me, but I had the weight and I tried to use it. It was rough at first, though."
Spriggs' first points came with Georgetown trailing, 32-30, early in the second half. He muscled in a layup over Orr and was fouled. He made the free throw and his three-point play put the Hoyas ahead, 33-32. It was a lead they would never relinquish.
Spriggs may not have the 6-11, 250-pound Scates' strength, but he is quicker and more agile. Where Scates blocks a lot of shots while standing flat-footed, Spriggs leaps at the ball.
He sent two of Dale Shackleford's shots back midway in the second half when Syracuse was trying to make a run.
Normally, losing Shelton that early in a close game could be disastrous to the Hoyas, but yesterday Bullis came off the bench and did many Shelton-like things.
He made the big free throws, he played tough defense and he helped Spriggs battle the Orangemen inside.
"I was sorry to see Craig foul out because he's an integral part of our team," Bullis said. "But I wanted the chance to play in a tight, important game and I was ready."
Bullis and Spriggs scored 10 of Georgetown's final 11 points, all from the foul line.
Bullis, a do-everything high school star at Bel Air in Forest Hill, Md., said, "They were fouling me on purpose. I couldn't let them get away with that."
Spriggs, a 1974 graduate of Northwestern, did not play high school basketball last year. He was working for the postal service when Georgetown Coach John Thompson persuaded him to play for him. But he was just as cool as Bullis at the line.
"All you can do is shoot them," he said.
The young Hoyas were not as jubilant as might have been expected, not because they weren't happy but because, as Shelton put it, "We always knew how good we were and this is just a step to something bigger."
"I feel we are capable of beating any team we play in the NCAA tournament," said guard John Duren, who was voted the ECAC Upstate New York-Southern tournament's most valuable player. Duren had 17 points seven steals and six rebounds yesterday.
"We were giving them the outside shots and mixing our defenses from a 1-3-1 zone to a 2-3 trap to a man-to-man, Duren said. "We were just controlling the tempo and the game. We wanted to make them think instead of just going out and playing. I guess it worked."