The final score was close, 65-60, and John Thomson, the Georgetown basketball coach, was concerned that his team again had dissipated a sizable lead, but he had many reasons to be happy tonight with the victory over Lafayette for third place in the ECAC Holiday Festival.
In the championship game, St. John's streaked to a 25-8 advantage and repelled Boston College's rally for a 78-70 victory before 15,270 at Madison Square Garden.
The triumph gave St. John's (8-1) an unprecedented fourth title in the festival's 28-year history. BC, which closed to seven points late in the game, is 6-2.
Georgetown, upset by a point by BC in overtime Wednesday, could have come out flat. Instead, the Hoyas threw up a man-to-man defense and the offense scored 16 straight points for a 27-10 lead midway in the half.
As a result, Thompson, who is trying to develop support for his three star players, was able to play his reserves extensively and Mike Frazier, a 7-foot, overweight and heretofore sleeping giant, gave signs of finally being ready to help his team.
So, as he sipped on his usual post-game quart of milk, Thompson was looking forward to what the new year will bring for his 8-2 team.
Producing a solid backup to center Ed Spriggs, now hampered by a stiff back, is the key to the rest of the season, Thompson said.
"I was glad we had an opportunity to use a lot of people the first half," Thompson said, "and I was glad Frazier played well. If we can solidify the center position, we'll be in good shape. If we can't, then we'll have some problems."
Frazier, a senior who took a "leave of absence" last year and ballooned to nearly 300 pounds, played 13 minutes with six points, three rebounds, one assist and a blocked shot. The statistics themselves were not impressive, but, as Thompson put it, "He got them at the right time. I tend to look at prime time."
Four of the points -- on a followup shot and a layup -- gave the Hoyas a 50-38 lead with 12 1/2 minutes to play. Lafayette (4-2), using the clock wisely, inched closer with the help of turnovers and missed foul shots, but never got closer than the final margin.
"I'm definitely ready to contribute now," said Frazier, who said he weighs 268 pounds and wants to get down to 235.
Thompson has pushed him hard to lose weight, but has not played the Cleveland native much. Asked where Frazier is now and where he has to go, Thompson replied:
"I don't know. The reason I'm saying that is if he consistently plays the way he did tonight, that's great. Eddie is still inexperienced and it's natural that he's going to make some mistakes. And, if physically he's hurt, we've got some problems.
"So it's a hell of a responsibility to put on Mike. But Mike's got to play with a lot of intensity and more consistency, because Mike is a lot better ballplayer than he's played."
Georgetown opened with a man-to-man defense because it tends to keep the team more alert. As Hoya captain John Duren put it, "We had to take the game seriously tonight, and we did."
With the score 11-10, Georgetown ran off the next 16 points, starting with Eric Smith breaking a Lafayette press at midcourt and finding Craig Shelton near the basket for an easy hoop. Then Georgetown took advantage of seven Lafayette turnovers in 10 possessions to make it 27-10. By this time Thompson had four reserves in the game.
Roy Chipman, the Lafayette coach, said that Georgetown's man-to-man defense -- with a few zone principles -- made his team tentative in attacking it.