Syracuse is coming, but Alonzo Mourning is back. That is a bad news-good news tradeoff with which the Georgetown Hoyas seem relatively content.

Maryland must wait three more weeks for Walt Williams, but the Terrapins saw some rays of light when they overcame a 17-point halftime deficit at South Florida to record their first road victory of the season.

The level of competition is about to be stepped up for 19th-ranked Georgetown, which hosts No. 8 Syracuse in a Big East Conference showdown tonight at Capital Centre -- with 16th-ranked Pittsburgh and No. 10 St. John's soon to follow.

Sometime around 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Georgetown seemed fairly ill-equipped for such a grueling stretch against the Big East heavyweights. After all, Dikembe Mutombo and the Hoya Kids were having enough problems with the likes of Seton Hall, Providence, Boston College and Villanova.

That bleak outlook changed shortly thereafter, however. Mourning emerged with a giant grin on his face for pregame warmups, then played in his first contest in over a month. And he more closely resembled the all-American he was supposed to be this season than a player who had missed nine of Georgetown's previous 10 games with a strained arch in his left foot.

The 6-foot-10 junior forward wasn't at his best, but he wasn't all that far from peak form, either.

"It felt good just to be playing again," said Mourning, who had 10 points, 7 rebounds and 4 blocked shots during a surprising 25 minutes in the Hoyas' 56-49 victory over Boston College at Conte Forum. "I was trying to push myself, trying to get back into the flow of things. I made some bad decisions, took some shots I probably shouldn't have taken. And my timing was a little bit off. . . . {But} for a first time out, I guess it was okay."

As far as Hoyas Coach John Thompson and Mourning's teammates were concerned, it was far better than that. Thompson said he hadn't planned to play Mourning as much as he did, but the efficiency -- and apparent painlessness -- of his play mandated that he be on the court.

Thompson had worried recently about Mourning's conditioning, but stamina did not seem to be a significant dilemma. Mourning appeared winded briefly early in the game, but he was at his most active early in the second half and never seemed to slow down appreciably.

Thompson also has fretted about reintegrating Mourning into the team's offensive scheme, and that indeed could be problematic. The Hoyas had some trouble meshing Mourning and Mutombo in their half-court attack during a first half in which they shot six for 28.

But they were considerably smoother in the second half, and with the game tied at 49 and just over a minute remaining, Mourning fed Mutombo for a dunk that became the decisive three-point play. Thompson drew upon a football analogy, saying that the addition of Mourning means his club has shifted from relying on the passing game to featuring a running approach: "Now we can grind it out on you."

And Mourning's potential impact certainly is not lost upon Monday's foe. "They're a top-15 team even without Alonzo," Syracuse Coach Jim Boeheim said. "They're a top-five team with him."

Mourning said he was quite restless during his convalescence, but he came to treat the ordeal as a potentially valuable lesson. "If you play basketball, eventually you're going to be hurt," he said. "You have to deal with it."

He said he swam and lifted weights to try to remain in shape, and he'd sneak in a few minutes of shooting every once in a while to make certain his touch didn't escape him. If Thompson was sometimes perplexed about the injury, Mourning apparently was even more so; the soreness in his arch would disappear, he said, then reappear just when he believed he was ready to resume playing.

The injury still may not be behind him, of course. Ten days after Mourning first hurt the arch against Duke on Dec. 5, he played -- then didn't play again until Saturday. Thompson said that Mourning's status remains day to day, and if the soreness returns, he'll be shelved again.

"The other guys have been playing pretty well without me," Mourning said. " . . . But hopefully I can give us a little extra boost."

Maryland got a big boost from a onetime Syracuse player, guard Matt Roe, who scored 23 points in the 87-81 victory over South Florida. Roe hit seven of eight free throws, including four in a row that carried the Terrapins from behind into a lead they never relinquished.

Another big factor for Maryland was center Cedric Lewis, who scored 16 points and tied a school record -- set by brother Derrick in 1987 -- of 12 blocked shots.

The remarkable rally, which Coach Gary Williams termed "probably one of the biggest comebacks any of my teams have ever had," was just what Maryland needed. The Terrapins had lost three in a row and appeared to be in disarray without Walt Williams to guide the offense.

Seemingly hopelessly beaten, Maryland (9-7) recouped with a full-court press that destroyed the composure of a South Florida team that owned an 11-2 record and had won 15 straight in Tampa's Sun Dome.

"Now that I know the guys can press full court for 20 minutes, we might do it more often," Gary Williams said.

He will have an opportunity to make further adjustments Tuesday, when Boston University comes to Cole Field House.