Trailing by nine points late in the first half, Georgetown held Connecticut to nine points in the next 16 1/2 minutes and won, 60-42, today in the Big East Conference regular-season finale for both teams.
The large final margin was a result of Georgetown making 20 of 21 free throws out of a delay game in the final 3 1/2 minutes. But the key elements of the victory were center Patrick Ewing's 22 points, an aggressive defense that finally controlled Husky guard Karl Hobbs and a quick start in the second half that gave the Hoyas the lead and let them dictate the game's pace.
A sellout crowd of 15,425 at Hartford Civic Center watched the 12th-ranked Hoyas, trailing, 23-14, with five minutes left in the first half, close within 24-22 by halftime. Then they took a 40-32 lead on Eric Smith's layup, his team's last basket, and Coach John Thompson ordered the pace slowed with 8:21 to play.
Georgetown (23-6) finished with a 10-4 conference record, good for second-place following Villanova's 54-53 win at Providence tonight. The Hoyas will open tournament play here at 7 p.m. Thursday against either Providence or Seton Hall. They tied for seventh place with 2-12 records and the winner of a coin flip Sunday morning will determine who gets the higher seed and plays Georgetown.
Boston College's 92-74 victory over Seton Hall tonight means that only one coin toss will be necessary. Boston College finished 8-6 in league play, good for fourth place. Syracuse and Connecticut were tied for fifth at 7-7, but Syracuse gets the higher seed because it defeated the Huskies twice this season.
The first-round pairings: 1 p.m.--Villanova vs. Providence or Seton Hall; 3 p.m.--Boston College vs. Syracuse; 7 p.m.--Georgetown vs. Providence or Seton Hall; 9 p.m.--St. John's vs. Connecticut.
Today, Ewing got 12 of his points in the second half. The 7-foot freshman also had eight rebounds and three blocked shots. Eric Floyd scored 16 points and Smith 10. Corny Thompson was the only Connecticut player in double figures, with 12 points.
The Hoyas made only 10 of 30 field-goal attempts and played with little emotion in the first half, when Ewing and Floyd scored all but two of their team's points.
"We were a little sluggish in the beginning," said Smith, who also had four rebounds and three steals. "We finally started putting pressure on them and forcing turnovers."
A lot of credit for that went to Floyd and Gene Smith, who all but took the 5-8 Hobbs out of the game. In these teams' first meeting this season, the quick sophomore shattered the Georgetown press as Connecticut won, 63-52. Today, Connecticut had 21 turnovers to Georgetown's eight.
"You have to just stay up on him and take him where he doesn't want to go," said Gene Smith. "We didn't let them get too many fast breaks or good peneration."
After Connecticut scored first in the second half, Georgetown got 10 straight points. During this streak, Floyd stripped Hobbs of the ball at midcourt for a layup, giving Georgetown a 28-26 lead.
With Hobbs controlled, the Huskies (17-9, 7-7) could do little offensively since they also had little success getting the ball inside to Thompson, Chuck Aleksinas and Mike McKay.
"They hit that streak in the first half and another one in the second," said the 6-8 Thompson. "They're too quick for us. We couldn't run with them, that's why it was important for us to control the tempo."
When Georgetown put on the brakes, Connecticut had neither the quickness nor stamina to combat the Hoyas' double high-stack offense and was forced to foul. The Hoyas made their last 14 free throws.
"Usually we lose or blow people out," said Georgetown's Thompson. "We know we're able to press. We know we can run. But we must be able to deal with the clock if we plan to do well in postseason play. We haven't had a chance to use our delay game much. Had they been ahead, they could have sagged back in a zone and held the ball. Once we got ahead, we could control the tempo."