HARTFORD, CONN., FEB. 11 -- Connecticut Coach Jim Calhoun said he used the six days his basketball team had before playing Georgetown to prepare a defensive sandwich.

And tonight, before a sellout crowd of 16,294 at Hartford Civic Center, his pregame work blossomed into a twin-tower hoagie as the Huskies knocked the Hoyas out of a first-place tie in the Big East by a 61-55 count.

"We had a lot of time to get ready for this one, but your game plan on the bus doesn't mean much if you can't carry it out," said Calhoun. "But when we had our two-three zone, we were able to match up out of it. When we had our one-three-one, we had our middle men sandwich on Alonzo {Mourning}. If they slid the ball outside, we had them sandwich on {Dikembe} Mutombo."

Freshman guard Charles Harrison led the Hoyas with 20 points, but Georgetown could not overcome the collapsing zone defenses that limited 7-foot-2 Mutombo to 11 points (five below his average) and 6-10 Mourning to three field goal attempts (making none) and five points.

Calhoun and his assistants could often be seen pushing their hands together, reminding all five of their players to squeeze into the lane. The strategy worked as Georgetown showed very little from the outside, making only 30 percent (15 for 50) from the floor for the game.

Guard Chris Smith scored 27 points and reserve guard John Gwynn scored 11 of his 15 in the second half as the Huskies won their third straight game to improve to 15-7 overall, 6-6 in the league.

Georgetown, which had won four of its last five overall and four straight in the Big East, fell to 15-7, 7-4 as idle Syracuse (20-3, 7-3) took sole possession of first.

In the first half, in which Mourning sat out the final 16:15 after getting three quick personal fouls, the Hoyas made only 22.7 percent of their shots. That left them behind, 32-22, at intermission.

"If the shots go in from the outside, the big guys are open inside," said Georgetown Coach John Thompson. "I don't know anybody in this country -- including anybody in the NBA -- who can play with four or five guys hanging on them."

Harrison made three three-point shots in the second half as the Hoyas, who trailed 47-36 with 9:10 remaining, cut the deficit to 49-46 with 3:42 to go.

Harrison, who made only five of 17 shots, tried to pull Georgetown even with a three-pointer on the Hoyas' next possession. His miss, however, became a dunk off a fast break by Lyman DePriest for a 51-46 Connecticut lead with 2:42 left.

The Hoyas tried to again climb back through endless substitutions and by sending the Huskies to the free throw line, but two free throws by Steve Pikiell and two by Smith in the final 28.5 seconds kept Georgetown at bay.

"I have watched Georgetown basketball all my life and, with Coach Thompson, I know they will always make a run in a game like this," said Gwynn, who went to DeMatha High and always regretted not being recruited by Thompson. "When it was 49-46, I said, 'Here it goes again.' But it was our press tonight that they just couldn't handle."

The Huskies forced 16 Georgetown turnovers with their full-court pressure and half-court trap. Scott Burrell, third in the country with 3.9 steals per game, had eight tonight.

That was not the only frustration for Georgetown, which with last season's Big East tournament defeat has lost two straight to the Huskies for the first time.

Mutombo, one of the nation's top shot-blockers, had two of his shots blocked within a one-minute span of the first half. The first was by 6-9 Rod Sellers, the other by 6-7 Toraino Walker. The Huskies said those plays were confidence builders.

"That was one of my all-time personal career highlights," said junior center Sellers.

In the closing minutes, Mutombo had an attempted dunk fly off the rim in another play that seemed to summarize the efforts tonight of Georgetown's big men.

"Dikembe's hands were not there tonight," said Thompson. "But {Mutombo and Mourning} are not robots. They just were not on top of their games tonight."