For the rest of this postseason, Georgetown should be known as the "Heart Attack Hoyas."
Tonight, in its opening-round Big East tournament game against troublesome Seton Hall, Georgetown blew a 13-point lead with nine minutes to play, but held on for a 58-52 victory in the Carrier DemiDome.
Georgetown thus advances to the Friday semifinals (9 p.m., WTTG-TV-5) against host Syracuse, which eliminated St. John's, 71-66, in the second game of the evening doubleheader.
In the afternoon session, last-place Providence shocked first-place Boston College with a last-second basket, 67-65, and Villanova defeated Connecticut, 65-54. Villanova and Providence will meet in the 7 o'clock game.
The defending champion Hoyas (20-10, 9-5 in the league), seeded second, defeated the seventh-place Pirates (11-16, 4-10) for the third time this season -- the first two times by a total of three points.
"Every time we play them I almost have a heart attack," a visibly relieved Thompson said after game. "I gues the 'Heart Attack Hoyas' is well suited."
After Thompson's emotional words at intermission when the Hoyas led by only 22-21, Georgetown scored the first two baskets, forcing Seton Hall Coach Bill Raftery to take a timeout. Pirate guard Dan Callandrillo, who scored a hame-high 22 points, hit a jumper to cut GU's lead to 26-23, but the Hoyas kept pouring it on.
Fred Brown made a free throw, Eric Floyd sank an 18-footer, Mike Frazier a layup to put the Hoyas up, 33-23.
Floyd and Eric Smith -- 19 and 14 points, respectively -- led a surge that carried Georgetown to a 46-33 lead with less than 10 minutes to play in the game, and nobody was biting fingernails.
Then the fingernail biting started.
Callandrillo scored two free throws, then stole the GU in-bounds pass and scored a layup for four quick points, cutting the Pirate deficit to 46-39. Eric Smith stepped on the end line trying to throw the ball in bounds and Callandrillo made two free throws to make it 46-41.
Steve Grieco stole the ball from Floyd after a GU missed shot, and Howard McNeil scored a three-point play to bring Seton Hall within two, 46-44, with seven minutes remaining.
By this time, the Carrier crowd -- 11,713 -- began to loudly cheer for the Pirates. The crowd is almost as anti-Georgetown, as it is supportive of its own Orange.
"As soon as the game got close, those Syracuse kids got into it, " said Thompson. "And our kids got a little too emotional, I think. We couldn't afford to get tied or behind.
Frazier quieted the noise with a layup that the official scorer didn't count until nearly a minute later, because the referee had signaled traveling.
"Frazier's not the most mobile of people," Raftery quipped about the GU 7-foot, 270-pound center. "He looks like he commits a violation just by walking on the court."
Eric Smith followed Frazier's cored with a bank shot and the Hoyas pushed their lead back to six, 50-44.
Seton Hall cut it back to three, 51-48, on Matt Piccinich's foul shots after Fred Brown fouled out with 6:23 remaining. But that was balanced when the 6-9 McNeil, who had been guarding Floyd, also fouled out.
Floyd then missed the front of a one and one but made a pair at 5:11 to put the Hoyas up, 53-48.
The Pirates did manage to crawl within three points again, 53-50, with less than three minutes remaining. But Floyd made five of six free throws in the last two minutes to preserve the victory, the Hoyas' third straight in Big East tournament competition in its two-season existence.
"Georgetown was just too impressive, physically," said Raftery of the team that outrebounded his Pirates 37-29.
"I thought we could beat Georgetown. But they've proved me wrong three times this season."
Boston College (21-6, 10-4) had defeated last-place Providence twice on its way to the Big East's regular-season title. But as anyone who has followed Big East basketball this season knows, the difference between the best, and the worst sometimes is no difference at all.
The Friars (10-17, 3-11) took a 34-33 lead on Otis Thorpe's basket, 45 seconds into the second half, and never trailed. BC did tied the game at 65 on a pair for free throws by conference player of the year John Bagley with 54 seconds left. But Providence guard Ricky Tucker took a nifty pass from backcourt mate Jim Panaggio and sank a 12-footer with one second left for the Friar victory.
Said Tucker: "I took that one bounce and boom. It was gold. I knew it was in. I've been waiting all season to do that."
Though Tucker was the hero, it was the Friar defense that was most responsible for the victory. The front line of Rich Hunger, Otis Thorpe and Billy Fields (from Osboure High in Manassas, Va.) played aggressively, forcing Bagley to miss eight of 10 shot in the second half, after he led BC to a 33-32 halftime edge with 15 points.
Before the DemiDome crowd could settle down from the Providence upset, Villanova (18-9, 8-6) had run up a 18-2 lead on Connecticut (19-8, 8-6) in the first eight minutes. But the Wildcats went scorless the rest of the half, and the Huskies scored the next 16 for an 18-18 tie at halftime.
Villanova used balanced scoring -- five players scored in double figures -- and scored 47 points in the second half to advance to the 7 p.m. game against no-longer-hapless Providence.
But the main attraction will be the bout between bitter rivals Syracuse and Georgetown. Each won its home game this season; the Orangemen winning by two points here before more than 17,000 last month.
The Orangemen (16-11, 6-8), playing without senior guard Marty Headd (he broke his wrist Monday), hit most of their 25 free throws down the stretch after the Redmen (17-71, 8-6) had taken a 55-53 lead with seven minutes left.
Eric Santifer, who started in place of Headd, scored 18 points, as did teammate Leo Rautins.