After defeating St. John's twice during the regular season by a total of 47 points, eighth-ranked Georgetown surprisingly resorted to slowdown tactics for the final eight minutes of the first half before Eric Floyd's shooting led the Hoyas to a 57-42 victory tonight in the semifinals of the Big East Conference tournament.
A sellout crowd of 15,136 at the Hartford Civic Center had become testy as Georgetown dawdled to a 21-19 halftime lead. After intermission, Floyd scored 16 of his 19 points and was the catalyst as Georgetown increased its lead to 12 points with eight minutes to play.
The Hoyas (25-6) will face regular-season champion Villanova, a 74-71 winner over Boston College in tonight's first game, at 3 p.m. Saturday for the tournament championship and an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. The loser also is expected to receive an at-large bid Sunday. Georgetown defeated Villanova (22-6) twice in the regular season.
Floyd, who scored only 13 points in a lackluster effort in the Hoyas' 62-48 first-round victory over Providence, accounted for eight of his team's first 10 points of the second half as the Hoyas led, 31-26, with 10:51 to play.
Two bench-clearing scuffles occurred midway through the second half, both involving Patrick Ewing, who was booed by the crowd. No punches were thrown, no technicals were called and no one was ejected from the game.
The Redmen (20-8) fell behind in the second half after missing 13 of their first 15 shots. They shot 37.5 percent for the game, and made 12 of 32 shots. With Floyd and Anthony Jones doing most of the scoring and Ed Spriggs and Ewing handling the rebounding, Georgetown outscored the Redmen, 13-6, in a 4 1/2 minute span to take a 44-32 lead.
"They can turn it on just like that," said St. John's Coach Lou Carnesecca, snapping his fingers. "We had our chance, we just let them get away in the first 10 minutes of the second half."
St. John's jumped ahead by six points in the first half before the Hoyas rallied to tie the game with just under eight minutes left. Then Georgetown made the strange decision to go into a spread offense.
"It wasn't a delay game, St. John's just played good defense," said Hoya Coach John Thompson, defending his first-half strategy. "We didn't get a lot of baskets, so it looked like a stall. We couldn't penetrate."
It didn't appear that St. John's was stopping the Hoyas from penetrating. Each time Floyd, Jones or Fred Brown made a move toward the basket, they had no problem getting inside. Most of the time, the Hoyas never looked at the basket.
"I was hoping they'd stall for 38 minutes," Carnesecca said. "Maybe he (Thompson) was conserving his players for tomorrow."
"We didn't put on the brakes, we just wanted to spread them out a little," Brown said. "They couldn't match up with us, and I think they got a little frustrated."
Despite the Hoyas' stalling, St. John's got the final three points of the half.
The real Georgetown team came out in the second half. Floyd quieted the booing with four long jump shots and Jones, who had a 19-point game against Providence, added a pair of baskets for his only points tonight. Ewing added four points to the 10 he scored in the first half. He also had four rebounds.
"I think they were tired from chasing us in the first half," Brown said. "They kept after us because they didn't want to be embarrassed a third time. But we hit our shots and moved out to a good lead."
David Russell and Billy Goodwin, who average 35 points between them, managed only 15 against the Hoyas, including three by all-conference forward Russell. St. John's got only five second-half field goals, the same number Providence managed Thursday night.
The scuffles began when Jeff Allen, coming down after a rebound attempt, accidentally grabbed Floyd around the neck. Ewing ran in to intercede. The second incident occurred after guard Bob Kelly got tangled up with Ewing on the floor.
"My only regret was turning the fans against us," Thompson said. "We sort of neutralized that in the second half."
In the first game tonight, Boston College--which battled back from an eight-point deficit to beat Syracuse, 94-92, on Thursday--trailed Villanova by the same margin with 2:49 to play. But the Wildcats weren't about to be a part of another comeback and sank eight of 10 free throws to hold off the Eagles (19-9).
Led by guard John Bagley, who finished with 22 points, Boston College closed to within five points several times in the final seconds. But two free throws each by John Pinone, Stewart Granger and freshman Ed Pinckney--who scored a team-high 21 points and had 11 rebounds--clinched the victory.