Conversations about the nation's best point guards often run five and six names deep before Georgetown's Michael Jackson is mentioned. But it's doubtful any playmaker in the nation has had a better all-court game than Jackson had yesterday at Capital Centre.
His two free throws with six seconds left to give 12th-ranked Georgetown a 74-72 victory over 17th-ranked Louisiana State would have been enough, if Jackson hadn't done anything else the entire afternoon.
But those game-winning points only finished a brilliant performance that included Jackson making eight of 13 shots from the field, scoring a team-high 20 points, handing out 11 assists and making four steals in 35 minutes.
Jackson, the second-smallest man on the court at 6 feet 2, also grabbed the air ball shot by LSU's Jose Vargas in the final seconds and was fouled underneath the basket by Don Redden to force the crucial foul shots.
"It was really a hustle foul on his part," Jackson said. "There wasn't much time to think about anything (when he stepped to the foul line). I just said, 'I'm going to knock these two down.' "
Jackson did that, leaving the Tigers (16-6) with a chance to take the game into overtime. But guard Derrick Taylor's 25-footer from the top rolled off the rim, allowing Georgetown (17-3) to win one of the best jump-shooting contests a national television audience has seen in a while.
Georgetown -- with guard Horace Broadnax making four of four in the second half, Jackson four of five and Reggie Williams four of six -- shot a scorching 71.4 percent the final 20 minutes. And LSU shot 60 percent in the second half.
"It was very exciting from a spectator standpoint," Georgetown Coach John Thompson said. "But from a coach's standpoint, you ask, 'Where has my defense gone?' "
Georgetown's defense, in this case sophomore Perry McDonald, went wherever LSU's John Williams went the last few possessions. Williams, in the hospital earlier this week recovering from chicken pox, made 10 of 16 field goal attempts and scored 27 points before being shut out in the final two minutes.
"I should catch chicken pox if that's the way you play with it," Thompson said.
Williams, a 6-7 sophomore forward, had gone around Georgetown's big men and over its smaller ones. So Thompson knew he was gambling a bit by putting 6-4 McDonald on Williams.
McDonald kept coming in on defensive sequences, replacing David Wingate, who also shot well (nine for 13, including six straight shots early) but also picked up a fourth foul with six minutes left.
A jumper by Broadnax tied the game for the 24th time, 72-72, with 1:06 to play. LSU Coach Dale Brown then called time with 57 seconds left. He diagrammed a play intended for Williams, who had already scored more points against Georgetown than anybody since Chris Mullin had 33 two years ago.
McDonald, an amateur champion boxer, came out on Williams and smothered him like a linebacker in a certain 46 defense. Williams, frustrated at not being able to even catch the ball, kept going farther out on the floor until he was near the top of the circle.
Williams never did touch the ball. With the game clock at :08, Vargas, a 6-10 center, tried to take a turnaround jumper from near the foul line over at least two Hoyas. The shot didn't reach the rim, and Jackson grabbed the ball, setting up his game-winning foul shots.
LSU's second option had been to get the ball to Taylor, who went six for 12 and scored 14 points. But the Tigers obviously wanted the ball to swing to Williams.
"(McDonald) did an excellent job of denying me the ball," Williams said.
"I knew, coming into the game, that my job was to deny John Williams from catching the ball," McDonald said. "I tried to push him out on the floor because he's too big and strong underneath for people to handle once he gets the ball."
It wasn't the first time all afternoon that someone played good, denial defense inside, which is one reason the game saw several stretches of classic jump shooting.
Ralph Dalton, Georgetown's 6-11 center, was the only Hoyas starter not in double figures, but he took only three shots. Wingate had 18 points and Broadnax scored 16 on eight-for-11 shooting. Reggie Williams had to go outside to score his 12 points.
It was one of the few times all season that Georgetown played a team with as much talent -- if not more -- and as much quickness.
But Jackson said it's the kind of game he loves to play. "I loved the pace," he said. "I've got the best running mates in the country."
During one stretch, after LSU had taken a 44-42 lead, Jackson came down and popped a 20-footer from the right side that tied the game; Williams hit a jump hook for LSU to make it 46-44; Jackson hit another 20-footer to tie; Taylor gave the Tigers the lead again with a deep jumper of his own; Reggie Williams scored a line drive jumper to tie, and Anthony Wilson sank one from 18 to put LSU ahead again.
It went like that all afternoon. Jackson missed once in the second half; other than that he didn't touch rim. Not even on the free throws.
It was ironic that Georgetown, which has won six straight, would make foul shots to win a game. The Hoyas have struggled all year at the line in crucial situations, which is largely how they lost at Texas-El Paso and Pittsburgh.
Even yesterday, Georgetown missed four straight free throws (a possible eight points) in the first half. But Thompson's teams do a lot of things in February that they don't do earlier in the year.
"They're aware of the fact that this is February," Thompson said. "And as I've told them, 'Teams that can play, play in February.' "
LSU, meanwhile, was leaving another arena in the midst of a five-game, eight-day stretch. The Tigers already had lost at Georgia the previous day and at home to Kentucky last Wednesday night, on a last-second jumper. Brown had tears in his eyes that night, his team almost winning despite having been ravaged, as he said, "by illness, injury and suspension."
Brown said he experienced a similar feeling of pride yesterday. "Maybe I can combine pride and victory sometime before the season's over," he half-joked