Georgetown showed last night just how captivating and dazzling a basketball team it can be, even without Patrick Ewing.
After New Mexico had pulled within two points midway through the second half, the Hoyas put away their sloppy December basketball and shot 70 percent the rest of the way for a somewhat surprising 76-51 victory before 5,616 at Capital Centre.
The score, by itself, wasn't a shock. But the fact that fifth-ranked Georgetown played, during some stretches, like a mid-February group did open some eyes.
"I wouldn't be surprised if they go back to the Final Four again this year," New Mexico Coach Gary Colson said afterward.
Even Georgetown Coach John Thompson, still trying to find the right combinations, said, "We did hit a point there where we played the way we want to play late in the year."
That stretch came when a big improvement was necessary.
Georgetown hadn't played a particularly graceful first half. The usually unerring Michael Jackson was even charged with four of the team's 12 turnovers, but the Hoyas still led, 31-23.
However, the previously undefeated Lobos had closed to 33-31 on a long jumper by Kelly Graves. And even with 12:25 remaining in the game, New Mexico trailed by only 43-39.
That's when Georgetown, specifically Reggie Williams and David Wingate, took over the game at both ends. They were instrumental in Georgetown scoring 16 of the next 18 points to run up a 59-41 lead with 8:29 left.
Wingate scored a game-high 21 points and Williams had 14. Williams played only seven minutes in the first half because of three fouls. But after the Lobos closed to 35-33 on a back-door layup by Johnny Brown, Williams scored eight of Georgetown's next 18 points.
"Reggie just dominated the game at that point," Thompson said. "I mean dominated."
Georgetown freshman Johnathan Edwards might not have dominated, but he did block five shots and lead the Hoyas with eight rebounds. One block stopped a dunk attempt by Brown.
And the Hoyas, who shot 59 percent for the game (64.5 in the second half) used good defense, as usual, to fuel the fast break and break apart a close game.
"The key to the whole thing was the tempo of the game," Colson said. "When we had the tempo, we picked away (at the Georgetown lead) and we cut it to two. But then John Thompson called time out, made some adjustments and got the tempo back to where he wanted it."
Thompson's timeout actually came with Georgetown (5-0) leading, 33-29, with 16:42 to play. It wasn't until Graves' jumper that the Hoyas took over the game.
Wingate hit a long jumper for 35-31. New Mexico's Brown, who averages 23 points per game, finished with only 10 and made his only basket of the half to keep it 35-33.
But Williams drove the base line for 37-33; Jackson hit a 20-foot jumper for 39-33; Horace Broadnax (10 points, four rebounds, three assists and no turnovers) hit an 18-footer for 41-35, and Williams lofted another 20-footer for 43-35.
After a basket by Lobos center Shawn Brooks made it 43-39, Wingate scored a basket off a Williams steal and Williams made an offensive rebound basket for 47-39.
"I felt really bad that I picked up the three early fouls," Williams said.
After Brown missed two free throws, Jackson sank another long jumper for a 49-39 lead with 9:49 left and the Hoyas were comfortably in charge. Not even some nice penetration baskets by Kelvin Scarborough, from D.C.'s Eastern High School, could keep the Lobos from falling further and further behind.
Even more impressive about Georgetown's shooting performance in the second half is that not many of those baskets were layups or dunks.
Center Ralph Dalton scored only six points and the 6-foot-9 Edwards had four. Jackson (four of eight from the field), Wingate (eight of 12) and Williams (seven of nine) just kept delivering jumpers from as far as 20 feet.
"It's not that we didn't take those shots last year," Jackson said. "It's just that we're taking them more frequently now, so you're bound to make more."
Williams called the pull-up jumpers in the transition game "a lot of fun," but added, "We've got to be smart about the shot selection even when the tempo is fast."
Thompson said he came into the game wanting to play his big men a lot early.
"The success of our season lies with how they fit in," Thompson said, adding that he is less concerned with an early loss than making sure the players get the system down and he feels comfortable with specific combinations of players.
Skeptics might be mindful that Georgetown beat New Mexico, not North Carolina, last night.
It's likely, with the current decrease in Pacific-10 power, New Mexico is one of the five best teams west of the Mississippi.
Even so, the Lobos were playing for the first time away from home, and in the Hoyas' home-court debut. And it was New Mexico's first regular-season game in the Northeast in 36 years.
Thompson wasn't trying to assess his opponent as much as he was trying to get a handle on how effective his team can be in specific situations. "There's still a lot I'm trying to find out," he said. St. John's 62, Marist 48
In New York, Walter Berry scored 16 points and took 15 rebounds as No. 14 St. John's won its fifth straight.
Willie Glass and Ron Rowan each had 13 points for the Redmen. Berry's dunk with 12 1/2 minutes left gave St. John's a 46-31 lead and free throws held off the Red Foxes (1-3). Mont-Takoma Park 64, Mont-Germantown 51
Claude Hodge scored 24 points as the visiting Falcons (6-1) beat the Gryphons (1-7).