Georgetown 67, Providence 58
-- Georgetown Coach Craig Esherick knows where he likes to see Mike Sweetney in tight games. And it isn't on the bench nursing four fouls.
But that's exactly where Sweetney was with 14 minutes 22 seconds left in tonight's third-round game of the National Invitation Tournament against Providence.
"I was scared to death," Esherick said after Georgetown beat Providence, 67-58.
"Usually, over the course of the season, we've had difficulty scoring with Mike on the bench."
Sweetney, an all-Big East first-team forward, has scored in double figures every game this season. So when he was forced to the bench with the Hoyas holding on to a 35-32 advantage, Esherick had reason to be worried. But some other Hoyas enabled him to relax.
"[Gerald] Riley hit a big three, [Tony] Bethel hit a big three and other guys stepped up and made plays [on offense]," said Esherick, whose team will face North Carolina in a quarterfinal game on Wednesday.
"We also made defensive stops when we had to. I was thinking about putting [Sweetney] in earlier. But we were playing so well, I decided to leave him out.
"I was probably the most surprised person in the gym at the way we played."
Georgetown had increased its lead to 49-39 by the time Sweetney returned with 6:55 left. The 6-foot-8, 260-pound junior scored six points down the stretch as the Hoyas (17-14) cruised to the finish.
Sweetney finished with a game-high 26 points. Bethel added 18 and Riley contributed 11. Ryan Gomes paced Providence (18-14) with 21 points and 13 rebounds.
While the Hoyas were burning it up on offense, the Friars went into a deep freeze.
After Gomes scored on a layup to pull them within 40-36, the Friars went nearly 10 minutes between baskets -- Gomes ending the drought on a driving layup with 2:46 left. Yet Esherick appeared mystified as to why Georgetown stifled the Friars, not only tonight but also in a 71-56 victory last month.
"Providence is a good team that's been playing extremely well, and I don't know why we've been able to contain them," Esherick said. "I thought we played better on offense in the second half. It's funny, but sometimes when you do that it affects your defense."
Perhaps the most amazing aspect of the first half was that Georgetown trailed by only 26-24 at the break. Why? Because Georgetown turned over the ball 16 times (en route to a season-high 26 turnovers) and shot just 35 percent from the floor.
The Friars were just as sloppy, committing 10 turnovers and shooting just 32 percent.
"We stunk up the joint in the first half. . . . I think they took away some of our confidence, because their traps were killers," Esherick said. "But I'm proud because we beat a team from the Big East -- the best conference in the country -- on the road."