Last season's Hoyas may not have wanted to play the first round of the National Invitation Tournament, but this year's squad proved it is eager to play in the second.

Behind Mike Sweetney's 17 points and 14 rebounds, Georgetown beat Tennessee, 70-60, in the first round of the NIT last night in Knoxville, Tenn.

With Sweetney held in check for much of the first half, 6-foot-2 freshman guard Ashanti Cook took advantage of a Tennessee lineup that featured three players 6-8 or taller for most of the game.

Cook scored 11 of his career-high 16 points in the first 20 minutes, including 12 straight Hoyas points during a nearly seven-minute stretch spanning the two halves to keep Georgetown's struggling offense within striking distance.

"Cook and our trapping defense kept us in the ballgame in the first half," Georgetown Coach Craig Esherick said. "Cook really got us going."

The game was tight for much of the first half, and went to intermission with Tennessee holding a 27-26 lead.

Cook made a three-pointer to start the second half for the Hoyas, a play that seemed to ignite them on both ends of the floor.

Denying the Vols open looks and finally opening room in the post for Sweetney to work, the Hoyas reeled off a 12-1 run early in the second half to take a 38-30 lead.

Georgetown got balanced scoring during the run, with Victor Samnick, Gerald Riley, Sweetney and Cook all getting baskets in those first three-plus minutes.

The Hoyas continued to keep Tennessee at arm's length inside the 11-minute mark, extending the lead to 50-40 before the Vols went on a run to trim it to 54-51.

"We played much better in the second half," Esherick said. "We moved the ball better and we got it to [Sweetney] more."

Double-teaming Sweetney, with Tennessee forward Brandon Crump fronting the Big East player of the year in the post, the Vols were able to keep the Georgetown offense off balance while finding some offense of their own.

When Georgetown couldn't get it in to Sweetney, he often went up and got the ball himself, fighting hard underneath the basket, muscling away Tennessee defenders for another double-digit rebounding effort.

Georgetown's pressing defense caused the Volunteers problems handling the ball, something UT Coach Buzz Peterson said may have cost them the game.

"We had way too many turnovers [19]," Peterson said. "We just couldn't get over the hump. They're a physical ballclub."

* TEMPLE 68, DREXEL 59: In Philadelphia, Alex Wesby had 20 points and nine rebounds and the Owls defeated their local rival in the opening round.

Despite the fact that the teams are located six miles apart, they had not met since the NCAA tournament in 1994.

* NORTH CAROLINA 83, DEPAUL 72: David Noel scored a season-high 21 points, Rashad McCants added 19 and the host Tar Heels shot 64 percent in the second half to win.

North Carolina (18-15), playing in the NIT for the first time in 29 years, overcame a dismal final eight minutes of the first half to advance to play the winner of the Wyoming-Eastern Michigan game, which was postponed because of a snow storm.

Noel, a 6-6 freshman, was 10 for 13 and added a season-high 11 rebounds. His previous best scoring output was 19 against Duke on Feb. 5.

* BOSTON COLLEGE 90, FAIRFIELD 78: Troy Bell scored 28 points to lead the Eagles in Bridgeport, Conn.

Boston College, (19-11), which advanced to play Temple, also got 19 points from Craig Smith and 18 points from Jermaine Watson.

Nick Delfico scored 14 points and Terrence Todd added 13 points for Fairfield (19-12).

Fairfield trailed 67-64 with eight minutes remaining and had a chance to tie, but Michael Bell's three-pointer missed the mark with the shot clock set to expire. The Stags never got closer than five points the rest of the way.

* SIENA 74, VILLANOVA 59: The Saints wore down the undermanned Wildcats with three-point shooting by Austin Andrews and Tommy Mitchell and used pressure defense to win in Albany, N.Y.

Siena (20-10) advanced to play the winner of a first-round game today between Illinois-Chicago and Western Michigan.

Again having only seven players available because of suspensions, Villanova led by 10 points in the first half and was even at 42-42 with 12 minutes 15 seconds to play.

"I can't say I'm surprised," Villanova Coach Jay Wright said of the loss.

"I would have never anticipated our situation with the phone-access number, but I knew there was a chance we were going to have a tough time mixing the freshmen and the seniors. It's very fragile."

Mike Sweetney shoots over Vols' Ron Slay. Double-teamed, Sweetney (17 points) had scoring help from teammates Ashanti Cook (16), Gerald Riley (15).