LAS VEGAS, DEC. 22 -- Never mind that without Alonzo Mourning, the Georgetown Hoyas lose 20 points and eight rebounds a game, as well as half of their intimidating inside defense. Perhaps more importantly, they also are without their emotional leader, the stabilizing force that can prevent extended lapses like the second-half rut today that produced a 71-60 loss to seventh-ranked Ohio State at the Thomas and Mack Center.
The No. 12 Hoyas, who suffered a second straight defeat for the first time since the 1987-88 season, slowed the Buckeyes to an unaccustomed walking pace in the first half and used an early spurt to hold a five-point lead at the intermission in a sleepy beginning to this "Duel in the Desert" doubleheader.
But the Buckeyes upped the tempo shortly after the break, running and pressing their way to a 19-3 burst that produced a 54-43 lead. From there, it was simply a matter of Ohio State completing a 26-for-32 performance at the foul line while the Hoyas tried desperately to forge a final run.
And all the while, Mourning sat, sidelined for a third game by his strained left arch. "It's tough to play without your main guy," said Ohio State forward Jimmy Jackson, who scored a game-high 17 points despite four-of-13 shooting. "When things get tough, you need someone you can go to that will hold things together. For them, that's Alonzo."
Georgetown took the high road afterward -- "rationalizing doesn't help us become a better team," Coach John Thompson said. The Buckeyes improved to 8-0 for their best start since going 22-0 in 1962 on a team that included Jerry Lucas and John Havlicek.
"We played a good team," Georgetown center Dikembe Mutombo said. "It's good for us to know we played well without Alonzo, but it was a game we could have won and we didn't."
The Hoyas (6-2) limited Ohio State to 39 percent shooting, the seventh time in eight games they've held a rival below 40. They got 15 points, 8 rebounds and 8 blocked shots in 36 minutes from Mutombo and 15 points from freshman guard Charles Harrison, and they kept the Buckeyes 37 points below their gaudy scoring average.
Ohio State guard Jamaal Brown kept the Buckeyes close by scoring 10 of his 14 points in the first half, and the Hoyas wore down under the strain of Ohio State's full-court, chest-to-chest pressure. Thompson contended that maintaining defensive intensity was as big a factor.
"Our style of play made us a little tired too," he said. After Mutombo's hook provided a 40-35 lead with 14:12 to play, the Hoyas missed seven shots -- and looked disjointed. The Buckeyes' harassment forced Georgetown from their controlled, half-court style.
Chris Jent's two foul shots brought Ohio State within 40-37. Georgetown's Lamont Morgan missed an 18-foot jump shot, and Jackson tipped in Treg Lee's miss to cut the Hoyas' advantage to one. Joey Brown's driving layup rolled off the rim, and Mark Baker's short jumper gave the Buckeyes their first lead, at 41-40.
The Hoyas continued to misfire, and Ohio State didn't relent. Brown's 18-footer and Lee's jumper in the lane made it 45-40. Then Perry Carter -- after an afternoon of being snuffed continuously by Mutombo inside -- faked a pass behind Mutombo's back, then made a layup.
Two free throws by Lee (13 points, 10 rebounds), Carter's post-up basket and three more foul shots completed the burst. "We finally got it up to our tempo in the second half," Ohio State Coach Randy Ayers said. "We turned up the defensive pressure, and we were a little more aggressive on offense."