When the Indiana-Georgetown basketball game got down to the final 4 1/2 minutes tonight, the poise and precision befitting the top-ranked team in the nation prevailed.
With a two-point lead, No. 1 Hoosiers forced Georgetown out of its zone, drew fouls, made the free throws and handed the 16th-ranked Hoyas their first loss in four games this season, 76-69.
But the partisan Assembly Hall crowd of 17,011 saw Georgetown stars Craig Shelton, Eric (Sleepy) Floyd and John Duren put on an offensive display that few have accomplished against a Bobby Knight-coached team.
Those three scored all but 11 of Georgetown's points, including 23 by Shelton, who extended his field goal streak to 19 shots without a miss over the past three games, six short of the NCAA record set last year by Ray Voelkel of American University. Floyd scored 21 and Duren 14.
As a triumvirate, they made 27 of 38 shots including 17 of 20 in the first half, and, afterward, Knight said: "We at no time had any control over Duren, Floyd or Shelton in the ball game."
If anybody had any doubts about Georgetown's basketball abilities, this game in the heart of Big Ten country should dispel them.
"They played better and more consistently than we did over the course of 40 minutes," Knight said.
But the Hoosiers, orchestrated by freshman whiz Isiah Thomas, were consistent when it counted at the end.
The Hoosiers led, 63-61, when the coaching chess game began with 4:45 to play. They had six possessions the rest of the game and scored each time.
"That's what we wanted to get. You get a couple up late in the game and you can do what they're doing," said Georgetown Coach John Thompson. "They're passing it and we had to give fouls.
"That's the way we beat a lot of people last year. Tonight, the pressure was on us. They wouldn't let us play zone in the later stages. We had to go after the ball, and they made the free throws. There's nothing you can do. Our kids showed character; they worked hard."
Asked if the outcome would have been different had the Hoyas led by two at the same stage, Floyd replied, "Oh, yeah, we would have won."
At the end, Thomas was the difference. He played the final five minutes with four personal fouls and his quickness was an ingredient missing from last year's 22-12 team that won the National Invitation Tournament.
Georgetown had to respect Thomas' ability to penetrate the lane area and so could not play as aggressively as Coach Thompson preferred. Nevertheless, Thomas still ran the offense to help free forward Mike Woodson for 23 points on 10-of-16 shooting.
Thomas, who totaled 19 points, also scored eight of nine Indiana points in the stretch in which the Hoosiers took final control. Woodson scored the other, giving the Hoosiers a 66-63 lead after Shelton was called for a technical foul for hanging on the rim following a dunk.
"Yes, I did it," Shelton said. "It was a good call. It was a mistake on my part. Playing a Big Ten team, you have a tendency to go harder, be more intense."
When Indiana inbounded the ball from midcourt following the technical foul, with 2:09 to play, the Hoosiers worked a nifty play, center Ray Tolbert feeding Thomas on the baseline. He collided with Duren while making a layup and no whistle was blown. That made it 68-63.
From there, each team scored each time it had the ball, except one Georgetown possession when Jeff Bullis could not handle a Shelton pass underneath. Thomas made two free throws, followed by Randy Wittman's two and then four in a row by Butch Carter.
Thus, Indiana reversed a 60-54 setback to the Hoyas last December at Capital Center. Two Indiana deficiencies in the game were not apparent tonight. The Hoosiers were much quicker defensively and they allowed Georgetown no points following offensive rebounds. The Hoyas scored 15 of their 60 points that way a year ago.
Indiana got its best play of the season out of 6-foot-10 sophomore Landon Turner, who started the second half at center in place of Tolbert and played much of the final eight minutes at forward with him.
Knight had withheld Turner, a starter last season, until last Friday, to make sure he would be academically eligible, sources indicated. With freshman Steve Bouchie injured and Indiana having to face the first of four straight nationally ranked teams tonight, with Kentucky coming up Saturday, Turner likely will see lots of playing time.
He played well against GU, with eight points and three rebounds in 20 minutes. He was the only Indiana player other than Thomas to draw any postgame praise from Knight, who seemed more anxious to praise Georgetown as a better team than last year's 24-5 outfit because of more experience.
Said Floyd, as much to the point as anyone: "They played a good game, and so did we."