Georgetown's Eric Smith scored 20 of his 28 points in the second half, accounting for eight straight at one point, and led the hot-shooting Hoyas to a 71-63 Big East Conference victory over Providence tonight at the Civic Center.
Smith and Sleepy Floyd, who had 20 points, scored 30 of Georgetown's 39 points in the second half as the Hoyas avenged their most embarrassing loss of an 18-10 season. They also kept alive hopes for a tie for the regular-season championship and No. 1 tournament seeding going into Saturday's final games of the regular season.
The Hoyas still are in contention for the title because Syracuse beat Boston College last night, when an Eagle victory would have clinched the title. Now BC must beat fast-improving Seton Hall Saturday night in Boston to win the title outright. If the Eagles are upset, Georgetown (8-5 in the league) can tie them by beating Connecticut at McDonough Gym.
If that happens, a coin flip or a draw will decide the No. 1 seeding for the tournament. Connecticut also is 8-5 in the conference, but the Huskies cannot tie for the title because they lost both regular-season games to BC. However, even if BC does win, the Georgetown-UConn outcome is important, because the winner will be sure of not having to play Syracuse in the first round at its Carrier Dome.
Providence is 9-16, 3-11 in the Big East.
"I don't think we have anything to be really proud of," said Georgetown Coach John Thompson. "We're supposed to beat Providence. We have better players. But we played tonight with a lot more patience than we have had. We got more good shots. The fact that we had Smith score in the 20s along with Floyd accounts for this. When we are more patient, he scores."
With Smith making 12 of 14 shots, the Hoyas made 64 percent for the game.
Smith's eight-point run came midway in the second half, lifting the Hoyas from a one-point lead to 56-47 control. The 6-foot-5 junior started the streak with a layup of his own miss with 11:34 left and finished with a 10-footer from the lane with 9:27 remaining.
The Friars' Rich Hunger answered with a 12-footer from the right baseline, but Mike Hancock, who had 13 points, came back with a 16-foot jumper and a layup that resulted in a three-point play, pushing the lead to 61-49 with 6:51 left. A minute later, Smith scored on a layup and it was 63-49.
If the game was retribution for the Hoyas, it also was for Smith who, in the game a month ago, was held scoreless.
"Yes, I was aware of that," he said. "But tonight I got some good shots, they went in, and I started to feel good."
"Smith had a great night," said Providence Coach Gary Walters. "He did everything. But Georgetown's new lineup really gave us problems."
Walton's reference was to Thompson's decision a couple of weeks ago to go with freshman Gene Smith as a fourth guard, instead of Hancock at power forward, thus making the Hoyas much quicker.