As well-coached, as fundamentally sound, as efficient as Georgetown's basketball team is, missing free throws cost the Hoyas another game today.
Georgetown, down by 18 points in the first half, played inspired defense in the second half but failed to convert 11 of 12 potential free throws during one stretch and lost, 64-63, to ninth-ranked Syracuse.
Michael Jackson's desperation jumper from about 30 feet with no time remaining wasn't close, and the Orangemen, playing before 32,475 in the Carrier Dome, had avenged their only Big East loss of the season.
Georgetown (20-6, 9-5 in the Big East) lost its third straight conference game, the first time that's happened since 1982. Syracuse (22-3, 13-1), led by Dwayne (Pearl) Washington's 24 points and Rafael Addison's 20, can win the league's regular-season title outright by beating St. John's Wednesday.
The 15th-ranked Hoyas might have won going away if they could have made a free throw or two at a pivotal moment.
But a 13-for-23 shooting performance (57 percent) from the foul line not only took points away from the Hoyas, but the misses prevented them from setting up their pressure defense, which is what forced Syracuse into mistakes and got Georgetown to the line.
So many times, Georgetown would stop Syracuse, come back with a good offensive move and even get the clock stopped with the foul call, only to undo all the positives by missing from the line.
"Psychologically, making a few free throws would have gotten us over a couple of hurdles," Georgetown Coach John Thompson said. "It would have gotten us a little bit closer, earlier."
Of Georgetown's six losses this season, five can be traced to poor foul shooting. For those who like to deal in what-ifs, give the Hoyas 72 percent foul shooting for the season -- instead of 67 percent -- and Georgetown might well be 25-1.
Thompson said he isn't about to jump on his players at this point in the season over foul shots, especially after they did so many things well in coming back after trailing by 31-13 when the game was 15 minutes old.
"That's traditional Georgetown free-throw shooting. I'd think something was wrong if we did make them," Thompson said. Perhaps he knew he didn't need to say any more.
The players knew what cost them an upset today.
"Free throws just killed us today," Georgetown senior David Wingate said.
And Reggie Williams, who scored a team-high 19 points, added: "It wasn't the noise or the pressure of the game. We're going to have to concentrate more. I don't know what the explanation is. We aren't the only team in the country it's happening to. But it is a cloud."
And Georgetown wasn't the only team in the Carrier Dome troubled by poor foul shooting today. Syracuse shot the same percentage from the line as Georgetown, but the Orangemen weren't the ones coming from behind.
Syracuse guard Greg Monroe missed the front end of a one-and-one with 5:09 to play, which allowed Georgetown freshman forward Johnathan Edwards to score and get the Hoyas within 58-50.
A steal and dunk by Wingate cut Georgetown's deficit to 62-56 with three minutes left, and a missed shot by Addison permitted Williams to bomb a 22-footer that made it 62-58.
That's when Washington missed the front end of a one-and-one. Edwards scored one free throw to make it 62-59 with 1:09 remaining.
Monroe hit one of two free throws, and Wingate countered with a bank shot that made it 63-61 with 35 seconds left. When Washington missed another free throw, Edwards scored what turned out to be the game's final points, with 14 seconds left.
But there was one last bit of drama. Syracuse's 6-foot-10 center, Rony Seikaly, who was so instrumental (totaling 14 rebounds and six blocked shots) in Syracuse running up a 35-23 halftime lead and an amazing 28-13 rebounding advantage at intermission, went for a dunk with four seconds to play instead of pulling the ball back out and running out the clock.
He was hammered by Edwards and missed the dunk. The third-largest crowd to see a game here grew tense and Syracuse Coach Jim Boeheim didn't want to look.
"I knew he was going to miss," Boeheim said candidly. "I was just concerned that we got in the right defense and didn't let Reggie or Wingate get the ball close. We wanted to force Michael Jackson to dribble the ball up, but even then he got closer than we wanted."
Sure enough, Seikaly missed both foul shots. And Jackson got off that final shot. But Washington got in Jackson's way at least a little as it flew off to the right.
Again, the Hoyas were left to think about what might have been.
From the time Perry McDonald missed two free throws with 11:28 to play to the time Wingate finally hit a pair with 5:16 to play, Georgetown missed four front ends (eight possible points), a two-shot set and one of two.
But hidden in the mess of missed foul shots was that Georgetown needed a strong inside performance from a big man more than a victory today.
And Edwards, who came in off the bench to supply nine points (four for six from the field), seven rebounds and two blocked shots, gave Thompson a reason to be very encouraged going into the final week of the regular season.
It would be unfair to Syracuse, however, to suggest that the Hoyas were totally responsible for what happened here.
Thompson, while nominating Boeheim for Big East coach of the year, mentioned that Syracuse caught Georgetown off-guard in two areas.
"They hit the offensive boards extremely well [eight to Georgetown's one in the first half] and we didn't have ourselves charged for that," Thompson said. "And they pressured us out of our offense." Oregon 89, Arizona St. 65
Senior forward Jerry Adams scored 21 points and got 14 rebounds as the Ducks beat the Sun Devils in a Pacific-10 Conference game in Eugene, Ore.
The Ducks improved their record to 9-16 overall and 4-11 in the conference. Arizona State is 12-13 overall and 6-9 in the Pac-10.
The teams stayed close early in the first half before Oregon's defense took down, holding Arizona State scoreless for the final 3:26 before intermission. The Ducks scored eight straight points and went into the half with the biggest lead of the game, 36-20. They led by 22 points with six minutes left to play in the game.
Oregon outrebounded Arizona State, 42-25, getting 11 offensive rebounds.
Oregon's Anthony Taylor led all scorers with 22 points. Teammates Rick Osborn and Steve Ranniger each had 10. The Sun Devils were led by Steve Beck with 21 points and Arthur Thomas with 18.