Georgetown guard Charles Smith called it "just another shot," but his scoop shot at the buzzer to upset Syracuse, and help drop its ranking from No. 14 to No. 17, earned him the Big East player of the week award yesterday. That, however, was merely an incidental byproduct of a crucial victory.
Smith's shot not only gave No. 15 Georgetown a 69-68 victory at the Carrier Dome on Sunday, it also broke a three-game conference losing streak. That, in turn, answered some questions about the Hoyas (12-4 overall, 2-3 Big East Conference) -- of whom it may now be said that anything, as usual, is possible. A team that went into the game contemplating potentially its worst slump in recent memory instead emerged with optimism.
"We really did need it," Smith said. "We were just concentrating on a one-game effort. We weren't looking at the last three games, those were in the past."
A loss would have marked the first time since 1974-75 that Georgetown would have lost four conference games in a row. And that possibility raised some serious issues, including whether the Hoyas could be a factor in the Big East. Other issues included their ability to play against teams with strong front lines like Syracuse, which has 6-foot-10 Rony Seikaly and 6-9 Derrick Coleman, and whether their transition game and defense could make up for various disadvantages in height and experience and some recent shooting trouble.
When Syracuse built a nine-point lead in the second half, largely thanks to lobs to Seikaly (22 points) and Coleman (10), it looked as if the doubts were proving true. But the Hoyas proceeded to place five scorers in double figures (led by Smith's 13), to lose the rebounding battle by just 34-30, and to prove everyone wrong by closing the gap in the last nine minutes. The result is that the Hoyas certainly cannot be counted on to settle into complacency when it comes to the Big East.
"We're over the slump now," Smith said. "Everyone is not going to win every game. This conference is very competitive, and everybody has lost at least one. We've got a little more confidence now."
Confidence was what Smith displayed on the final sequence. After Sherman Douglas made a driving shot with eight seconds to play, the Hoyas trailed by one point and had no timeouts left. Johnathan Edwards had the presence of mind to inbound the ball quickly to Smith, who drove between Seikaly and Douglas in the middle and made the layup.
Smith briefly considered pulling up for the jumper, an option some might have chosen. However, his decision to drive the lane proved a good one, since neither Seikaly nor Douglas was willing to foul him.
"It was just another shot," Smith said. "I was just thinking about what we needed. So I tried to drive for the two, and ducked between them."
Smith's performance in what was only his third career start, brought to the forefront a player who has quietly become extremely valuable. He is averaging 14.3 points per game overall, but scored 20 in the Hoyas' loss to St. John's earlier last week and is averaging 18 points per game since league play began.
But Smith's is not the only development. The Hoyas may have found an additional front line presence in 7-foot center Ben Gillery, who had a career-high 11 points and a game-high six rebounds against Syracuse. Other players in double figures were Perry McDonald with 12 points, Mark Tillmon with 11 and Anthony Tucker with 10.
Still more will be known later this week when Georgetown plays two Big East games at Capital Centre. The Hoyas face Boston College on Wednesday, Connecticut on Saturday.