Georgetown's flourish-or-flounder act was on the upswing again last night as the Hoyas dominated Providence, 79-65, before 9,013 at Capital Centre and returned to within a half-game of the lead in the Big East Conference.

After a pause during Sunday's sloppy loss to DePaul, the 20th-ranked Hoyas' roll through February seems to have resumed. The Friars were overwhelmed on all fronts, offering little resistance while Georgetown raced to a quick 12-point advantage and led by as many as 24 in the second half.

Senior center Dikembe Mutombo provided 20 points, 14 rebounds and 8 blocked shots for Georgetown, which won its third straight Big East game to improve to 6-3 in the league -- putting the Hoyas alone in second place behind 7-3 Syracuse -- and 14-6 overall.

Freshman point guard Joey Brown added a career-high 17 points and seven assists, and he spearheaded a harassing defense that forced Providence star Eric Murdock to take 26 shots to get his 25 points -- six below his Big East leading average entering the game.

But perhaps the most encouraging development for Georgetown was the play of Alonzo Mourning, who had 15 points, 10 rebounds and 6 blocks in what he called his most complete performance since returning late last month from a six-week absence because of a strained arch in his left foot.

Mutombo and Mourning usually were in sync, and the Hoyas' supporting cast was steady enough that Friars Coach Rick Barnes could restate the conference's recent company line, that Georgetown is a top-five team in waiting.

"They controlled the game," said Barnes, whose team made just 25 of 78 field-goal attempts and shot 13 free throws to the Hoyas' 34. "If you look at the score, I don't think that was indicative of how badly they beat us. . . . We took some bad shots, shot ourselves into a hole early. But that's a great defensive team we played.

"And believe me, they're only going to get better and better this month."

That may depend largely upon Mourning, who said last night that his foot still bothers him at times, but insisted that the lingering effects of the injury are mostly psychological. "There's discomfort here and there," he said, " . . . {but} I just have to go out, play hard and forget about my foot. I know it's going to come for me with time."

Georgetown, which shot above 50 percent from the field for just the third time this season, held the upper hand from the opening minute. Mourning provided the Hoyas' first four points of the evening on dunks, and Brown followed by nailing a pair of jump shots. Georgetown led by 12-3 on Robert Churchwell's 12-foot jumper 5:26 into the game, and it was 21-9 on Ronny Thompson's 17-footer from the baseline a few minutes later.

Murdock had just seven first-half points, and -- aside from center Marques Bragg, who had 11 of his 15 points before halftime despite botching a few easy chances -- the rest of the Friars couldn't pick up the slack.

A six-point Providence surge narrowed the Hoyas' lead to 23-17, but the Friars (13-8, 4-6) went scoreless over the next 4:40 while Georgetown pounded the ball inside and made eight straight free throws during a 12-0 run that put the Hoyas in command for good at 35-17 five minutes before the intermission. Mourning and Mutombo combined for 10 points in the surge.

It was 44-27 at the break after Brown answered Murdock's three-pointer with a leaning, last-second bank shot, and Mutombo got four inside baskets early in the second half as Georgetown pushed its cushion to 58-34 with 16:06 remaining.

The Hoyas had only a few mild scares thereafter -- once when Providence stole back-to-back inbounds passes en route to seven rapid-fire points to narrow the deficit to 60-46 with 12 1/2 minutes left, and again when Murdock's three-pointer made it 66-54 at the 4:28 mark.

But Georgetown stabilized itself each time, and the Hoyas coasted down the stretch despite managing just one field goal in the final 10 minutes.

"Alonzo's starting to get into the flow," Georgetown Coach John Thompson said. "He's got to get the frost off the pumpkin. This was probably one of his better games.

"They're coming around. The continuity of the season was broken when Alonzo and {Brian} Kelly got hurt, so we're a little bit delayed with that. But we'll work it out."