That Georgetown's basketball team beat previously undefeated and fourth-ranked Syracuse on Wednesday night was significant in itself. But the way the Hoyas won may hold importance for the second half of the season, especially for Georgetown's front-court players.
The Hoyas came into the season knowing they had three of the nation's best perimeter players in Reggie Williams, David Wingate and Michael Jackson.
None of the three has done a bit less than expected, but the Hoyas found that they sorely needed a stronger inside game if they were going to make any impression in the postseason.
If Georgetown's 73-70 victory over the Orangemen is an indication, Thompson's midseason session with his big men should pay off handsomely.
Senior Ralph Dalton, sophomores Grady Mateen and Ronnie Highsmith and freshman Johnathan Edwards combined for 29 points and nine rebounds against Syracuse out of the center and power forward spots.
"The shooters have been doing a heck of a job all year," Highsmith said. "We needed to get more from the inside guys. This could be the start of something."
Earlier in the week, starting senior guard Horace Broadnax, the team's fourth-leading scorer, went to Thompson and volunteered to give up some of his playing time if one of the front-court players needed it.
"He said he knew I wanted him out there because he was a senior," Thompson related, "but that he wouldn't be hurt if we needed more size in the game and he had to sit. He said he would come off the bench and play hard whenever I needed him . . . I really appreciated it."
Broadnax played a season-low nine minutes Wednesday. Mateen, 6 feet 10, played a career-high 30 and Edwards, 6-8, played 14 in his reserve role.
Thompson had grown tired of seeing opposing teams attack Georgetown (12-3, 3-2 in the Big East) inside, something that was unthinkable for four years when Patrick Ewing was in uniform. The Hoyas' offense was also growing too perimeter oriented.
"We had to incorporate inside with outside," Thompson said. " . . . The people who have beaten us (Texas-El Paso, Pitt and St. John's) have hurt us inside . . . "
Against Syracuse (13-1, 4-1 in the Big East), it was Georgetown that did the hurting inside, which came as quite a surprise to the Orangemen.
Syracuse came to town prepared for a Georgetown team structured around Williams, Wingate and Jackson. As a result, his team's 2-3 zone kept pushing out higher on the floor.
By late in the second half, the Georgetown players recognized that the base line was wide open. Syracuse had time to make the adjustment because it was obvious from the first possession that Georgetown was going inside just about every time it got the ball.
"Their zone was out so high," Williams said, "I told Michael just to catch my eyes and throw the lob pass because there was nobody back there."
Jackson, who had eight assists and only one turnover, threw lob passes to Williams, Edwards and Wingate, with the latter putting the Hoyas ahead, 71-68, with 19 seconds left.
Syracuse did get back within one on a basket by Wendell Alexis with five seconds left. The Hoyas, who hadn't hit clutch free throws all season, got two from Wingate with two seconds left to secure the victory.
"They got the ball inside much better than they had been," Syracuse Coach Jim Boeheim said.
"We knew Dalton was a good player, but he hadn't been that effective in the games we'd seen," he said. "Mateen and Edwards are good, solid players. With a game like this, they'll probably just get better and better as the season goes on."