Providence College, unshaken by a first-half Georgetown comeback, made 75 percent of its shots in the second half and held on for its first Big East victory in the conference's two-year existence, 61-58, over the Hoyas before 4,419 stunned fans in McDonough Arena last night.
For Georgetown, playing Providence (7-8, 1-5 in the conference) was supposed to be a mere tuneup for a big matchup with once-defeated Connecticut Saturday. The talented but inconsistent Friars, without leading scorer Jerry Scott, raced to a 17-6 lead early, only to see the Hoyas take a 33-30 halftime buldge as Sleepy Floyd twice stole the ball and scored in the last 29 seconds.
Undaunted, the Friars, with four players scoring in double figures, broke to a 46-39 lead midway through the second half and maintained uncommon poise down the stretch to hand the Hoyas only their sixth home defeat in the past four years.
Providence forward Rudy Williams, just back from academic ineligibility the first semester, grabbed three rebounds off last-minute Georgetown misses and sank a free throw with 15 seconds remaining for the game's final point.
Otis Thorpe, a 6-foot-9 freshman center, hit all three of his field-goal attempts and four free throws for 10 second-half points, taking advantage of a Hoya team that played without a true center for much of the second half.
Hoya Coach John Thompson, an all-American center at Providence in the early 1960s, decided to use a smaller lineup for quickness and mobility and used 6-7 forward Mike Hancock at center late in the game. All three of Thorp's baskets were power layups or close-in bank shots over Hancock or a 6-7 reserve forward Jeff Bullis, who led the Hoya's first-half comeback.
The Friars made 12 of 16 shots in the second half (63 percent for the game), but Georgetown's undoing was its own inability to make shots from four, six and eight feet. The Hoyas, led by Floyd's 22 points and Hancock's 18, shot a miserable 36 percent the second half after hitting their 30 attempts before intermission. Georgetown also missed seven of 15 free throws for the game.
"These kids aren't emotional robots," Thompson said. "They played one emotional game Saturday against Syracuse. Then they had one day's rest going into tonight's game. Providence had us in a great position on the schedule. We just weren't clicking. We got the opportunities to score inside the second half, and just didn't hit the shots. Their offense bothered us more than their defense."
Georgetown was bothered most by 6-5 junior forward Billy Fields, an Osbourn Park High graduate who blew the Hoya zone apart by hitting eight of 12 shots for 18 points, 12 in the first half. Fields, a sometime starter, moved into Scott's vacated forward position last night.
Twice when Providence was clinging to two-point leads late in the game, Fields swished long jumpers to increase the lead to four points. "In this gym, if they tie the score or go on top late in the second half, it's rough to come back," said Fields. "It's very intimidating here. I guess that's what makes this first conference win so special."
Friar Coach Gary Walters said he felt a great deal of relief after the victory. "We've been operating under a great deal of pressure, being the only Big East team not to have a win," he said.
It was Walters' technical foul that enabled Georgetown to tie the game, 27-27, late in the first half when Floyd made both free throws. "I've seen coaches running up and down the sidelines, doing triple somersaults. That's the quickest technical foul I've ever gotten," Walters complained.
Walters told his team to "sustain your effort and don't get discouraged" at halftime with the Hoyas holding a three-point lead.
"It would stand to reason that having beaten Syracuse in an emotional battle Saturday and knowing we've been playing like the Little Sisters of the Poor, that they could have been a bit flat," Walters said.