The boos in the University of Dayton Arena seemed to echo forever when the game ended and the scoreboard showed the winner was Georgetown. The nonpartisan crowd of 13,260 had adopted the Texas Tech Red Raiders and Wendell Owens, a junior guard who almost helped send his team to the second round of the NCAA tournament.

The Red Raiders, who had been 10-12 at one point this season, were so close to upsetting the Hoyas. And Owens was so close to being the hero.

In the interview room after the game, Owens spoke softly, explaining the Hoyas' rally in the final two minutes that neutralized his 22-point, four-assist and three-steal performance in 25 minutes.

"I just came out and tried to do the best I can," he said. "Coach [Gerald Myers] wanted me out there and I thought I could do a good job. I feel we turned the ball over more than we should have."

Before tonight, Owens had averaged only 15 minutes and scored five points a game.

But the native of Queens, N.Y., the only Red Raiders player from east of Texas, got his chance when freshman guard Sean Gay committed two turnovers and missed a shot midway through the first half, allowing Georgetown to build a 33-20 lead.

So into the game came a player who was inspired by Georgetown's fast-paced, aggressive style of play.

"Wendell hadn't played a lot the last few games," said Myers. "But this is a good type of game for Wendell. He's quick. He made some steals and made things happen in the transition game. His defense is probably what turned things around and got us back into the game."

"I knew going into the game," said Owens' teammate, Tony Benford, "the tempo was Wendell's type of game. He's good at it."

Said Owens: "I have an itch for the ball."

Owens said Big East schools recruited him in high school. Tonight, there might be some that wish he had stayed close to home.

Scoring six points in the first half, he brought the Red Raiders back from a 12-point deficit, controlling the ball on offense and stealing it on defense.

With Georgetown ahead, 40-34, early in the second half, he scored five straight points. Then, after stealing the ball from Horace Broadnax, Owens made a layup for the Red Raiders' first lead since 11:40 to play in the first half.

And when Owens rebounded and scored to put Texas Tech up by 48-42 with 14 minutes left, it appeared the Red Raiders were on their way to a big upset.

But in the final minutes, the Hoyas came back, and Owens was called for a questionable double dribble with his team ahead, 53-52. Did he turn the ball over? "I don't think so," Owens said.

Owens' big night was so unexpected, Georgetown's Reggie Williams said: "I didn't even notice. I looked at the stat sheet and he got 22 points. I didn't know it. He did his job.