In an frantic ending to a near-impossible comeback, Georgetown called an overtime timeout it didn't have, never got off a last-second shot and lost, 75-73, to Connecticut today.
It was a Big East game in which Georgetown trailed by 16 points at halftime, but could have won in regulation with better free-throw shooting.
Trailing, 74-71, with 11 seconds remaining in overtime, Eric Smith, who fought off an injured elbow to score a game-high 28 points, banked in a running one-hander to bring Georgetown within one point, 74-73. Freshman guard Fred Brown then called time.
But the Hoyas (11-8, 3-3 in the Big East) had used their single alloted extra-period timeout on the previous play when, after stealing an inbounds pass, Smith scored to cut a five-point Connecticut lead to three. An automatic, two-shot technical foul was assessed on the Georgetown bench for calling the illegal timeout.
"It was a freshman mistake," said Georgetown Coach Jim Thompson. "We had just said in the huddle during the timeout that we didn't have another one left. It was a mental lapse." Especially since Connecticut, which made 25 of 30 shots from the foul line today, is the nation's best free-throw shooting team.
Corny Thompson, the 20th-ranked Huskies' leading scorer, rebounder and a 90 percent free-throw shooter, made the second of the two foul shots to give Connecticut its 75-73 lead and possession of the ball at midcourt.
Thompson threw the inbounds pass to 5-foot-8 freshman Karl Hobbs, who was gang-fouled by the Hoyas with five seconds left. Hobbs, an 84 percent foul shooter, missed the first shot in the one-and-one situation.
Hoya reserve forward Jeff Bullis rebounded the miss and passed upcourt to reserve guard Kurt Kaull, replacing Eric Floyd, who had fouled out with 2:18 remaining in overtime. Kaull dribbled to the left of the circle and appeared to be open for a shot with one second left. But he passed the ball to guard Ron Blaylock, who couldn't get off a shot before the final buzzer.
The partisan, standing-room-only crowd of 4,600 that had intimidated Georgetown the first half, when the Huskies played flawless basketball in shooting 60 percent and breaking to a 45-29 lead, erupted for the first time since intermission and seemed to shake the foundation of the dilapidated field house.
The Huskies, who had lost two of their last three games to conference opponents Boston College and Villanova on the road, have won all seven Big East games on their three home courts in the league's two-year existence. But it was not easy after halftime today.,
Georgetown, behind a swarming, man-to-man defense and the scoring of Smith, Floyd and 7-foot center Mike Frazier, outscored Connecticut, 14-4, during a three-minute stretch early in the second half and took the lead, 60-59, with 6:25 to play on Smith's 15-foot jumper.
Smith, who suffered a hyperextended elbow last Monday against Providence, sat out Wednesday's game against Southern Connecticut and didn't know until late Friday that he would start today.
The Hoyas increased their lead to 62-59 on Floyd's scooper, but Norman Bailey's three-point play -- his only score of the game -- tied the contest at 62 and neither team led by more than a basket the rest of regulation.
Connecticut center Chuck Aleksinas, who had only two points in limited second-half playing time after scoring, 13 in the first half, made two free throws with 1:14 to play to give the Huskies a 65-64 lead. Gene Smith, a 31 percent foul shooter, then made one of two free throws to tie the game for the last regulation points with 1:01 to play.
Georgetown could have won the game in regulation, but continued to be plagued by poor free-throw shooting at critical moments. The Hoyas were 15 for 20 for the game, but missed four from the line late in the second half.
The Hoyas were shooting only 59 percent from the line against Big East opponents coming into today's game. The Huskies, on the other hand, were hitting 77.8 percent.
"We made the free throws down the stretch and they didn't," said guard Bobby Dulin, an 85 percent foul shooter who calmly swished four free throws in the overtime, as the Huskies made eight of 11.
"It wasn't just the missed free throws," Thompson said. "I'm pleased with the effort but we didn't hold our composure at the end of the second half. In the first half, we didn't have enough patience. We got all caught up in the noise. In the first half, we got beaten more by the environment than the team. We controlled the tempo and the tone in the second half.
"The man-to-man defense and the small lineup (four guards on the court at one time) helped us more than the big lineup (two centers) and the zone defense. I wasn't too vocal at halftime. I just told them to be patient and nip their way back in the game. We had them. It was a great league game."