Eric Smith hit two free throws with three seconds remaining to give Georgetown a one-point lead and Mike Frazier dropped in two from the line with two seconds left as the Hoyas earned a 69-68 victory over Nevada-Las Vegas today.
For a fleeting moment at the end, it looked as if it might go the other way.
Following Smith's free throws, Nevada-Las Vegas attempted a court-length inbounds pass. UNLV center Michael Johnson and the Hoyas' Fred Brown and Frazier all went up for the ball. Johnson came down with it as referee Art White blew his whistle.
Las Vegas Coach Jerry Tarkanian and Rebel fans rejoiced and GU Coach John Thompson turned away in dismay as it appeared Johnson would go to the foul line with a chance to win the game for UNLV. But White ruled the foul was on Johnson and Frazier made two free throws at the other end for a 69-66 lead. UNLV scored a meaningless basket at the buzzer.
"The play at the end of the game was exactly what we wanted," said Tarkanian, who lost only his 15th home game in eight seasons at UNLV. "I told the ref, 'Watch for the foul because we're going to throw a long pass.' I thought they did foul him I thought Johnson was at the line."
Thompson said he thought the same thing.
"I thought Brown had fouled him (Johnson)," said Thompson when asked what went through his mind when the whistle blew. "I'm just happy it went the other way."
The victory was the second straight for the 13-8 Hoyas, who return to Big East Conference action Wednesday in a game with Villanova. UNLV, like Georgetown a top-20 pick in some preseason polls, suffered its sixth loss in its last eight games and dropped to 10-9.
Frazier had his third straight outstanding game, scoring 13 points and grabbing five rebounds in 28 minutes. He also was effective on defense in the middle.
Unlike earlier games this season against Pennsylvania, Providence and Connecticut, when the Hoyas lost close games by failing to convert free throws, Smith and Frazier were perfect from the line today when it counted.
The lead exchanged hands 10 times during the last six minutes. Freshman guard Brown put Georgetown ahead, 65-64, on a drive down the lane with 2:48 to play. Then, following a blocked shot by Hoya center Ed Spriggs on UNLV's Sidney Green, Thompson elected to hold the ball the final two minutes.
But Rebel guard Michael Burns deflected a pass off Smith's hands and UNLV had the ball back and 57 seconds to work with. Tarkanian chose not to play for the final shot and instead, sophomore guard Larry Anderson hit a 20-foot jumper from the left side with 42 seconds left to put Las Vegas up by one.
"We wanted to get a good shot early because if you shoot and miss at the end, it's all over," Tarkanian explained.
The Hoyas worked the ball for a shot and, with time running out, Eric Floyd put up a 14-foot jumper from the right baseline. The ball bounced away but Smith was there to grab it and was fouled by Burns. Following a UNLV timeout, Smith hit the first shot to tie the game, and after two more Rebel timeouts, he sank the second.
Las Vegas backup center John Copeland was then inserted into the game to throw the long pass to Johnson in the game-deciding play.
The Rebels, running the ball up court despite Georgetown's full-court press, raced to a 10-4 lead in the opening minutes. Thompson then took off the press and the Hoyas contained UNLV's break better the remainder of the half and pulled to within three, 32-29, by halftime.
Floyd, who hit five shots in a row at the start of the second half, connected on a jumper with 17:11 left to give the Hoyas their first lead at 38-36. Georgetwon then held or shared the lead until UNLV came back to take a one-point lead on five occasions late in the game.
"Poise was the difference," Thompson said. "I felt our kids showed good patience. We were afraid of letting the tempo get out of hand and the way we started off scared me. But we settled down and, at the end, the free throws went in today."