Anthony Jones, the forgotten freshman of the past month, came off Georgetown's bench tonight to lead a 31-4 surge during an 11-minute span that left Providence reeling, 62-48, in the first round of the Big East tournament at the Hartford Civic Center.
The eighth-ranked Hoyas (24-6) will face St. John's (20-7)--which beat Connecticut, 54-52--in a semifinal game Friday night at 9. Chris Mullin's 14-foot base line jumper with three seconds left provided the margin of victory for the Redmen. UConn ended its season 17-10.
Boston College (19-8), a 94-92 victor over Syracuse, and Villanova (21-6), an 88-73 winner over Seton Hall, will play the other semifinal at 7 p.m. The Georgetown game will be televised by WTTG-TV-5, with WWDC-1260 broadcasting both Big East games.
The title game is Saturday at 3; the champion earns an automatic berth to the NCAA playoffs.
For more than 16 minutes tonight, the Hoyas played as if they wanted to be elsewhere. The extra hour of shooting practice Coach John Thompson ordered this morning appeared to be a waste, as the Hoyas missed their first six attempts. They also committed four turnovers.
Providence, which split two games with the more talented Hoyas during the regular season, played patiently in the first half, working its way to a 27-17 lead with 1:24 left before halftime. But Jones took over, making several key baskets and two steals as the Hoyas cut Providence's lead to 29-24 at halftime.
The Hoyas opened the second half with a 24-2 run in the first 10 minutes for a 48-31 lead and it was all over for Providence (10-17).
With Jones making all four of his second-half shots and Eric Floyd coming on to finish with 13 points after going one for seven in the first 20 minutes, the Hoyas enjoyed their best shooting half of the year. Ten for 26 in the opening half, Georgetown shot 17 of 19 from the field in the second half.
Jones scored 19 points by making eight of 10 field goal attempts, three of five free throws, had two rebounds and four steals in 22 minutes. Georgetown's more-heralded freshman, 7-foot-1 Patrick Ewing, scored only nine points and had three rebounds.
Jones, who had averaged less than seven minutes playing time and three shots the last six games, showed no rhythm when he entered the game with nine minutes left in the first half. His first shot missed everything. Then he went to work.
He drove the base line for a layup, made one of two free throws after a Friar turnover, stole a Providence pass and earned two more free throws and converted another steal into a basket as the Hoyas closed within five points at the half.
"We're not a good passing team, haven't been all year," said Providence Coach Joe Mullaney.
Georgetown continued to excel in the opening minutes of the second half, outscoring Providence 18-0 at one point. Jones was the catalyst, scoring four baskets, forcing two turnovers and making two steals. Eric Smith had three baskets and Freddie Brown two layups. During that period, Providence missed five of six shots and lost the ball eight times.
"We just put more pressure on them and made them rush things," said Jones. "I was glad I could come in and provide a lift. I realize I haven't been playing, but I hadn't lost any confidence. You have to wait your turn. My turn came tonight."
"I had said at halftime when we pulled even or went ahead, we would spread them out and make them play man to man," said Thompson, who gained his 200th coaching victory at Georgetown. "Once they came out, we could work for some easy baskets. We did the same thing my old teacher (Mullaney) did against us in the first half.
"We were cold and a bit reluctant, just confused out there, and he exploited that. He got ahead and ordered his team to a delay game. Providence did exactly what it had to do to against us. Thank God for Anthony Jones."
In the Boston College-Syracuse game, Dwan Chandler made an 18-foot jump shot with four seconds left to give the Eagles their victory. In the first game, Villanova held Seton Hall's Danny Callandrillo, the conference player of the year, to four points in the first half, while Villanova was taking a 13-point lead. The Connecticut-St. Johns game was tied at 52, with the Huskies playing for a final shot. But Chuck Aleksinas was called for a charge with 1:18 remaining and St. John's took possession and ran the clock down before Mullin made his shot.