Georgetown, maintaining its composure in the face of a spirited upset bid by Texas Tech, scored nine straight points in the last two minutes of the game to escape with a 70-64 victory tonight in the first round of the NCAA Midwest regional.
The Hoyas will play Michigan State, a 72-70 winner over Washington, in a second-round game Saturday. All-America guard Scott Skiles (31 points) made two three throws with two seconds left for Michigan State (22-7). In other games today, Temple defeated Jacksonville, 61-50, in overtime and Kansas beat North Carolina A&T, 71-46.
With 4:12 to play, the Red Raiders of the Southwest Conference appeared on the verge of a major upset. Led by guard Wendell Owens, a native of Queens, N.Y., Texas Tech was in front, 62-61.
Meanwhile, the Hoyas were in severe foul trouble. Guard Michael Jackson and forward/center Ronnie Highsmith each had four fouls. Centers Ralph Dalton and Johnathan Edwards and forward Reggie Williams each had three fouls, mostly the result of Georgetown crashing the offensive boards.
It was Dalton who made what turned out to be the deciding play in the game. Taking the ball inside, the fifth-year player scored on a short jump shot from the lane with 2:08 remaining, then made a free throw after being fouled on the play. From that point, the Hoyas were in control, allowing just a layup by Owens with two seconds left.
Williams led Georgetown (24-7) with 22 points. The Hoyas had a 40-29 rebounding advantage, including 19 at the offensive end. Texas Tech (17-14) was led by Owens' 22 points.
"I took all of those guys the seniors out of the game at one point and started pleading with them," said Georgetown Coach John Thompson. "I put my arm around them and told them, 'You've been here before, I think.' "
Jackson didn't have quite the same recollection of the moment. "It was something like that, but his arm was gripping my neck and the words were a little stronger."
Whatever the tenor, Thompson's words must have had the desired effect, for in the final two minutes it was Jackson, Dalton and David Wingate scoring all nine points in the decisive run.
Said Williams: "It was a little scary, looking up at the clock and seeing us down. In the back of my mind I was thinking that we could be going home and watching the rest of the tournament. I didn't want that to happen."
It almost did, mainly because of Owens, a junior college transfer who was inserted into the game when, following a turnover, senior guard Tony Benford (17 points) yelled at Coach Gerald Myers to put in Owens.
At that point, with 6:06 remaining in the first half, Georgetown was in front, 33-20. That was a result of their relentless pounding of the offensive boards. Apart from Jackson, who hit his first two shots and went on to a five-for-seven game from the floor, the Hoyas were cold from the perimeter. But it didn't matter as much because Dalton, Highsmith and Edwards seemed to gather any errant shot. In taking a 38-32 halftime lead, Georgetown got 13 offensive rebounds and scored 23 of its points either from inside the lane or on free throws after being fouled inside.
"I find it hard to be pleased with a lot in any game," said Thompson. "I could tell you a lot that was wrong out there. But in order to be successful we have to rebound and tonight our big people were active."
So was Owens, and the junior, who had scored only one point in the Red Raiders' three-game sweep of the SWC tournament, had begun to make his presence felt. In the last six minutes of the first half he scored six points and had an assist and a steal. That was just a prelude for what could be considered a dominant second half. In the first eight minutes of play, in which Texas Tech outscored Georgetown, 19-6, Owens accounted for 16 points, either on baskets or assists.
"The way Georgetown plays, I've played that style of ball in New York," said Owens.
While he thrived in the hectic environment, the Hoyas faltered, mainly, according to Thompson, because they got too comfortable. "We had gotten ahead, but then we became impatient," he said. "We started shooting the ball too rapidly and that gave them their confidence."
Said Myers: "We're disappointed, to say the least, that we couldn't pull this game out. But I couldn't be prouder of this team. To come back from a losing record a month ago [10-12] to the NCAA playoffs."
In the opener, Temple, perhaps looking ahead to a matchup with Kansas, almost was bitten by Jacksonville, struggling to win in overtime.
It could be said that neither team deserved to advance. Each shot 37 percent from the field for the game, the Dolphins of the Sun Belt Conference just 26 percent in the second half. During one spell of futility in the second half, there was more than six minutes without a point.
The second game was devoid of drama as Kansas improved its record to 32-3 with a rout of Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference representative North Carolina A&T. The game often resembled professionals against amateurs.
"I think they did an excellent job of adjusting to whatever changes we tried to make -- as if they needed to," said North Carolina A&T Coach Donald Corbett.