Georgetown 74, Miami 72
Just when it appeared Georgetown was about to let another game slip away, Tony Bethel stole it back.
The sophomore guard stripped a Miami player of the basketball and hit Brandon Bowman with a pass downcourt in the final seconds today as the Hoyas escaped with a much-needed 74-72 Big East victory.
The final minute had been looking all too familiar for Georgetown. The Hoyas held a five-point lead before a flurry of turnovers, blocks and steals saw their advantage cut to one with 24 seconds left.
But Bowman made 1 of 2 free throws after he was fouled with 5.4 seconds left, and the Hurricanes' Armondo Surratt missed a desperation three-pointer as time expired.
Georgetown (12-11, 4-8) had lost five of its last six games decided by five points or fewer and nine of 11 overall. Today's victory, along with Pittsburgh's victory over Rutgers, moved the Hoyas out of last place in the conference's Western Division. The last-place team in each of the conference's divisions is not invited to the Big East tournament.
Bethel (12 points) was at the center of the wild finish for Georgetown. He turned the ball over on an inbounds pass with 27 seconds left, and Robert Hite scored on a layup to pull the Hurricanes within one.
On the Hoyas' next trip up the court, Bethel was stripped by Eric Wilkins as he was trying to run down the clock. But Bethel sprinted down the court and stole the ball back.
"I felt so bad I made the turnover, so I wanted to hustle back and get the ball back," said Bethel. "I just I knew I had to throw it down the court [to Bowman] to burn off time, and then we had a man there."
Hoyas Coach Craig Esherick called Bethel's steal the play of the game but admitted he was apprehensive about another close game.
"I was very nervous. Have you seen us play lately?" Esherick said. "We did make a couple of turnovers down the stretch, but Tony made a play. That's what you have to do at the end of a ballgame."
Georgetown turned the ball over 20 times, but forced 24 by the Hurricanes.
Mike Sweetney led the Hoyas with 24 points and grabbed 10 rebounds and played with four fouls for the last five minutes of the game. Gerald Riley added 19 points.
"We had to change our offense for some of the things that they did in the first half," said Esherick.
After shooting 32 percent, the Hoyas responded with 57 percent shooting in the second half.
"It was a pretty good game for us, being in last place it was a game we needed to win," said Sweetney. "It was a dogfight at the end. There were bodies flying all over the place; there was legs and arms all over the place. We just had to stick it out.
"We've had trouble winning the close ones all year, so this was a big one for us."
Georgetown was able to contain explosive junior guard Darius Rice. Held scoreless in the first half, Rice finished with 12 points on 4-of-12 shooting.
"I've watched Rice play for three years now," said Esherick. "It doesn't take a great genius to know that you can't give him open shots. It was effort more so than strategy."
James Jones led the scoring for Miami (10-13, 3-10) with 18 points and was one of six Hurricanes players in double digits.
"I thought Darius [Rice] rushed himself when people pushed up on him," Miami Coach Perry Clark said.
Of Miami's 13 losses this season, nine have come by five points or fewer. Like Georgetown, Miami is trying to stay out of the cellar of its division in the Big East and qualify for the conference tournament.
Hoyas Note: Former Georgetown star Alonzo Mourning was on hand to see the Hoyas' first win at Miami since Dec. 7, 1993.