It wasn’t until the final buzzer sounded that the 5,071 onlookers could let out a collective sigh of relief.

After a game that should have been a cake walk – one the Hoyas were favored to win by double digits – Georgetown barely escaped the MCI Center with a 50-47 win over Big East bottom feeder South Florida Tuesday night.

The Bulls (6-11, 0-4), on the losing end of a 23-22 score at halftime, never let the Hoyas pull ahead by more than two possessions. Pesky USF stuck around, buoyed by the Hoyas’ offensive troubles.

And so it came down to the final minute. Up by one point, Georgetown fans and players were on the edges of their seats until fifth-year Darrel Owens came down with a decisive defensive rebound with 2.6 seconds to play.

“I was just going to hold it,” Owens said. “If they were going to foul me I was determined to make those last two free throws.”

Owens sank both shots of the one-and-one to make it a three-point game.

The Hoyas weren’t yet out of the clear, even with two fouls to give. Head Coach John Thompson III said his team was instructed to foul during USF’s last couple of possessions, but those words were disregarded on the court. Bulls junior forward cHugh Mattis was able to put up a last-second shot that was just inches away from sending the game to overtime.

“We’ll deal with that tomorrow,” Thompson said of the fouling situation.

Owens came through in the clutch yet again for Georgetown (11-4, 3-2), scoring 20 points, including 4-of-8 shooting from beyond the arc.

“On any given night, anybody can explode,” Owens said. “On any given night, we don’t go into every game pointing any fingers, saying you’ve got to score tonight for us to win. It just so happened it was my night.”

He added: “I’m sure the next game we’re going to spread the love.”

Senior Ashanti Cook was the only other Hoya to break double figures. Cook had 12 points and three assists.

Georgetown’s leading scorer, sophomore Roy Hibbert, was held scoreless for the first time all season. He spent most of the night on the bench after going 0-3 and committing two turnovers in the game’s first 10 minutes.

On the positive side, the Hoyas committed only seven fouls in the contest. They were unable to convert a 5-1 foul advantage into a large lead, however, instead squandering the opportunity and missing five straight free throws.

South Florida, one of two remaining winless teams in the Big East, was paced by senior guard James Holmes (13 points). Junior forward Melvin Buckley added 12 points and senior center Solomon Jones notched a double-double, with 11 points and 12 boards.

USF pulled out to a 7-1 lead to open the game, though Georgetown clawed back to make it 10-9 nine minutes into match.

The Hoyas spread it around to sophomore forward Jeff Green, Owens and freshman Jessie Sapp, taking a 16-10 advantage. That margin dissipated to a one-point lead by halftime.

Late in the second half, the Bulls managed to close another six-point gap, earning five straight points to make it 46-45 with 1:39 to play. Senior forward Brandon Bowman replied, maneuvering through USF defenders to put his team up by three.

On the ensuing possession, Mattis put back Bowman’s block, setting up a heart-wrenching final minute with Georgetown nursing a 48-47 lead.

Sophomore guard Jon Wallace ended up with the ball as the shot clock wound down and was forced to drive along the baseline. Wallace put up a futile shot from under the basket, giving the Bulls another chance.

USF senior center Solomon Jones missed an off-balance 10-foot jumper, and Owens got the board to seal the victory – barely.

“That was a long 2.6 seconds,” Thompson said.

Thompson insisted his team should not be accused of overlooking a soft opponent in the midst of one of their most difficult stretches of the season, a stretch that includes No. 12 West Virginia, No. 3 Connecticut and No. 1 Duke.

“It’s not a great escape. It’s a league game,” Thompson said. “That’s how league games have been and that’s how they’re going to be.”

But the Hoyas’ lackluster offense certainly calls into question the team’s ability to even be competitive tomorrow against the first-ranked Blue Devils. Georgetown last knocked off the best team in the country during the 1985 Final Four, beating St. John’s 77-59.

“We know what we’re up against and I think we’re up for the challenge,” Owens said.

The Hoyas and the Blue Devils square off at MCI Center at 1:30 p.m.

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