Just when it appeared Villanova was ready to put Georgetown away tonight, all-America guard Eric (Sleepy) Floyd turned the final minutes of the Big East Conference game into his own private spectacle.
Floyd, a 6-foot-3 senior, scored six straight points, including a breakaway dunk with 1:08 to play, and finished with 29 points--18 in the second half--in the Hoyas' 83-72 victory before a sellout crowd of 9,208 at the Palestra.
The Hoyas (17-5), who trailed by a point with 5:58 to play, made their last 18 free throws after missing eight of their first 13.
The loss dropped Villanova (14-6) out of first place in the conference and created a race in which fifth-place Syracuse is only one game behind. Connecticut now leads with a 5-2 record, followed by Georgetown and Villanova (6-3 each), St. John's (5-3) and Syracuse (4-3).
Villanova, which now has lost five straight to Georgetown, including a 16-point loss 10 days ago, had rallied from a seven-point deficit to take a 68-67 lead after Stewart Granger made one of two free throws with 5:58 left.
"We should have been further ahead, but we missed our free throws (missed 11)," said Villanova Coach Rollie Massimino. "The last 10 years, we usually rank right up there in free throw shooting. Tonight we missed them."
After Granger's shot, Georgetown regained the lead, 69-68, on Mike Hancock's base line jumper with 3:47 left. The Hoyas then turned the show over to Floyd.
He immediately made a steal, was fouled and scored on a pair of free throws. After Granger missed, Floyd was fouled again and made both free throws for a 73-68 Hoya advantage with 2:12 left. Floyd then committed a charging foul, leading to a basket by Dwayne McClain that cut the Hoyas' lead to 73-70 with 1:18 to play. Then came the breakaway dunk.
"It was important we be ahead in those final few minutes," said Georgetown Coach John Thompson afterward. "We knew if Villanova got ahead, this place would go crazy. But they were behind and had to be aggressive and foul. And we made our shots."
Floyd's dunk was the clincher. He broke the press, raced around a Wildcat defender and put the Hoyas ahead, 75-70. His work now done, he sat back and played cheerleader while teammates Pat Ewing, Hancock and Ed Spriggs closed out the game with eight straight free throws.
"I just took what they gave me," said Floyd. "When I saw the openings, I just took the shots. Luckily they went in."
The game was close throughout. Hoya center Ewing (11 points, 10 rebounds) and Wildcat counterpart John Pinone (19 points, eight rebounds) played well despite being in foul trouble. Before picking up his fourth foul, Ewing scored six points during a 9-1 run to give Georgetown its largest lead, 65-58, with 7:52 left. Pinone got his fourth foul seconds afterward but remained in the game, helping the Wildcats tie it, 65-all, and scoring five points in the final minutes.
Without Ewing, the Hoyas went to Floyd, Hancock (14) and Eric Smith (14) and traded baskets with Villanova in the first 20 minutes. Neither team played well, missing numerous open shots and free throws.
Each team managed five-point leads only to see them disappear quickly. Villanova left with the momentum at the half, getting two baskets from reserve John Sices and Granger to lead, 35-33.
Floyd tied the game at 35 and the teams traded baskets until the Hoyas made their run.
"That's when we went to our four corners, to pull them out of their zone," Thompson said. "Even with a one- or two-point lead, as long as we were ahead, we could afford to do that."
The strategy worked. The Wildcats came out and Floyd ran them ragged. He made 20-foot jumpers from all angles as the frustrated Wildcats watched in dismay. After one soft jumper by Floyd, Massimino simply shook his head and turned away.
"He's just such a great shooter and he hurt us," Massimino said.