Georgetown 71, Providence 56
When Georgetown slipped into last place in the Big East Conference's West Division two weeks ago, power forward Mike Sweetney said to himself: "There's no way I'm going to sit home and watch the [postseason] tournament on television. . . . We just have to come together."
That has happened, and with all-too-rare fine performances on offense and defense the Hoyas snapped Providence's three-game winning streak, 71-56, last night before 6,716 at MCI Center and moved into fifth place in the seven-team division.
For Georgetown (13-11, 5-8) it was the third victory in its past four games. Idle West Virginia trails by a half-game in the division and Rutgers slid two games behind the Hoyas by losing at home last night to Seton Hall. The last-place team in each division does not make the league tournament.
"This is one game I definitely can say we closed with intelligence and good judgment," said a relieved Georgetown Coach Craig Esherick, referring to the Hoyas countering each Friars run and increasing an eight-point lead with 75 seconds left on turnovers and free throws.
The collective numbers for the Hoyas were as impressive as any game all season. Providence (13-12, 6-8) had 25 turnovers and made just 9 of 25 shots after trailing by a point at halftime. Georgetown, meanwhile, made 13 of 20 second-half shots, 11 of 15 free throws and had assists on 21 of its 26 field goals.
"And it wasn't just one person," guard Tony Bethel said.
Sweetney's team-high 20 points came on just 11 shots. Swingman Gerald Riley also made eight of his 11 field goal tries. More impressive was forward Victor Samnick. Frequently an offensive liability, he was 5 for 8 from the field, had four steals and was on the floor at the end after picking up his fourth foul midway through the second half.
"I have to make plays to get Mike open," Samnick said.
Samnick was referring to Providence building a zone defense around Sweetney, with dropping a guard and 6-foot-10 Marcus Douthit forming a sandwich. That often left Samnick open along the baseline, and he could have had more than 12 points had he made a few more layups.
"We've got to work with old Vic on making layups," a smiling Esherick said. "I'm sure that'll come. He's only a senior."
The Providence winning streak had been anchored by defense. But the Hoyas jumped to a nine-point lead in the first seven minutes by successfully attacking the Friars' zone. Esherick positioned Sweetney near the free throw line, and that allowed Samnick to slip down the left baseline for an early layup. With Sweetney on the bench for a brief rest, Courtland Freeman assumed the high post and fed Samnick for another basket.
Sweetney's only basket in the first 13 minutes came on a tip-in as the Friars went on a 7-0 run and narrowed Georgetown's lead to 14-13 midway through the first half. Sophomore forward Ryan Gomes (21 points, eight rebounds) had five of the points as Riley missed two three-pointers and Samnick a tough drive.
The final 10 minutes before halftime were a series of mini-runs by each team, with Riley scoring four points and Darrel Owens making a pair of foul shots as the Hoyas gained a 21-13 lead. Then Gomes made a step-back 16-footer and two foul shots and point guard Donnie McGrath sank a three-pointer and Providence quickly was within three points with 7:34 left.
Georgetown built a 28-24 lead, with Sweetney dunking off Samnick's pass and Bethel making a three-pointer when the Friars collapsed on Sweetney. With a five-point lead in the final two minutes, however, freshman Ashanti Cook had one shot blocked and missed another and Gomes pulled the Friars to within 33-32 on a layin just before the halftime buzzer.
In what Esherick called as important a stretch as any, Georgetown began the second half by not allowing a shot before the 35-second clock went off and scored on the other end on Sweetney's dunk off a cross-court pass from Riley. Then Samnick, Riley and freshman forward Brandon Bowman led a surge that extended Georgetown's lead to 43-34 and Providence was forced to use a timeout.