MIAMI, JAN. 2 -- Perhaps Miami was still delirious from its football national championship, or giddy from the party that has seized this town. Whatever the reason, it carried over to the Hurricanes performance on the basketball court tonight, and threw a memorable scare into No. 18 Georgetown before the Hoyas pulled out an 82-78 win at the James L. Knight Center.
The Hoyas led by 45-38 at halftime only because of some superb three-point shooting, and trailed by seven with 8:36 to go. But they put together a 14-4 run from the 6:27 mark until 53 seconds remained to take an 81-73 lead.
Ultimately, the Hoyas prevented an upset with some old reliables: the precise eye of Mark Tillmon, who had 24 points, including 15 from three-point range, and a ravaging press that created three key turnovers in the final minutes.
"It wasn't the prettiest thing in the world, but we won," an unconcerned Coach John Thompson said. "We've done that a lot through the years."
Georgetown (9-1) came here seeking a warmup for Big East conference play, which it begins Wednesday against No. 4 Pittsburgh at Capital Centre. It got more than that from a Miami team that has been curiously inconsistent, and chose this night to score a season high.
Earlier this week the Hurricanes (6-5) suffered a 110-82 beating by Purdue, , trailing the Boilermakers by 66-31 at halftime. A sellout crowd of 5,023 had good reason to expect another from a Georgetown team that, although young and still problematic, shows many of the qualities of last season's 29-5 squad.
"We did too many good things to dwell on the negative," Miami Coach Bill Foster said. "This could have done so much for us."
The Hoyas were most troubled by a surprising Miami source: 7-foot-1, 245-pound Tito Horford, the Dominican Republic native who looks so marvelous, yet has played so ineffectively in his first full season of college basketball. Horford showed his possibilities tonight, going 40 minutes for only the second time in his career. The result was a game-high 26 points, and seven rebounds.
"It will take a lot of effort and hard work to beat a top team," Horford said. "We're improving a lot each game. We feel much better about where we are now."
Horford was not the only Hurricane in double figures. He was one of four, with forward Eric Brown adding 18, a guard by the fitting name of Kevin Presto throwing in 14 from long range, and forward Dennis Burns contributing 10.
The Hoyas offset that onslaught by spreading it around themselves. Charles Smith joined in Tillmon's shooting spree with 22 points, nine from three-point distance. That loosened things up inside somewhat for Perry McDonald, who added 15 points.
Georgtown maintained its seven-point halftime margin until the 16:15 mark, when Presto sank an arching three-pointer to cut it to 49-45. Those were the first of nine straight Miami points, as it reclaimed the lead. Brown's jumper and Horford's layin off a miss by Anthony Tucker tied it a 49, and then a Georgetown turnover gave Horford a bank shot for 51-49 with 14:04 left.
Miami lengthened its lead to seven with 8:36 to go on another four straight points -- a Horford jump hook and guard Bruce Moore's pullup jumper -- for 67-60. But Smith's three-pointer for the Hoyas cut it back to four, and that's where it stayed as every possession became critical.
Miami still led by four, 69-65, as late as the 6:27 mark. But the Hoyas then hit for nine straight points as the Hurricanes went scoreless until 1:26 remained. In that stretch, the Hoyas picked up three turnovers off the press, blocked a layup by Presto and forced a Horford miss from underneath.
Five of the points were scored by Tillmon, who returned the lead to the Hoyas with his three-pointer with 4:52 remaining, 70-69. The Hoyas then extended the run to build a 79-70 lead with 1:02 to go on Smith's two free throws.
Tillmon's best work was done in the first half. The Hoyas trailed by six at one point, and had to shoot 60 percent from three-point range to emerge from the half with the lead.
Georgetown still trailed by four, 29-25, with 4:11 left in the half on Thomas Hocker's corner jumper. But the Hoyas outscored the Hurricanes, 20-9, over the rest of the half. Fourteen of the points came from Tillmon, 12 of them consecutively from three-point range.
"I kind of got it going and got confident, so I just kept going," Tillmon said. "They said we don't have any shooters, so we came out to prove them wrong."
And that's what they did. GEORGETOWN Min FG FT R A PF T McDonald 35 6-13 3-4 4 4 2 15 Tucker 7 1-2 0-0 1 0 1 2 Allen 26 3-5 1-2 6 1 4
Halftime: Georgetown, 45-38.
Three-point goals: Georgetown 8-15 (Tillmon 5-8, Smith 3-5, Jackson 0-2); Miami 3-11 (Brown 0-1, Burns 0-1,
A -- 5,023.