MEN’S HOOPS Hoyas Get Past Providence By Mike Hume Hoya Staff Writer

NEW YORK, March 7 – After losing in four overtimes at home to Notre Dame, Georgetown Head Coach Craig Esherick said he believed that sooner or later his team was going to start winning some of the close games the Hoyas had lost on the last possession. Esherick’s team finally proved him right, downing the Providence Friars in frantic fashion in the opening round of the Big East Tournament last Wednesday.

Trailing 67-66 with 9.5 seconds remaining in the game, freshman guard Drew Hall took an inbounds pass the length of the court, dribbling behind his back to get past the Friars’ two-time Big East Defensive Player of the Year John Linehan and dished to a wide open junior center Wesley Wilson underneath the basket who slammed it home for a 68-67 Georgetown lead. A last-second heave by Linehan from the top of the arc rang off the rim, and Georgetown moved one step closer to securing a bid to the NCAA Tournament, advancing to face No. 21 Miami Thursday in the quarterfinals.

The Hoyas’ victory was hardly an exhibition of sound fundamental basketball, however. Georgetown turned the ball over 28 times, a Big East Tournament record, largely due to a smothering full court press by the Friars in the second half. The swarming Providence defense stole the ball 19 times, another Tournament record, led by Linehan’s five thefts. “I think we were just trying to get the ball over half-court by the end of the day,” Esherick said of the Hoya press break. “I think [the turnovers were] more an anomaly and they have someone like Linehan, who can cause so many problems.”

After two consecutive games with just one turnover, Georgetown senior and Third Team All-Big East selection Kevin Braswell committed seven against the Friars, tied for tops on the team with sophomore forward Mike Sweetney. The 45 combined turnovers is the most in a Big East Tournament game since 1982, when Boston College and Syracuse achieved that dubious feat.

Providence’s pesky pressing defense did not always result in a clean steal however. The Friars frequently sent Georgetown players to the foul line and for an 11-minute stretch in the second half the Hoyas scored only two points from the field. But the charity stripe was anything but for Georgetown, who shot a season-low 51 percent from the foul line, missing 19 of 39 free throws.

The first half was the opposite of the second half’s frenzied events as Georgetown slowly and steadily built a seven-point lead. The Hoyas scored the first six points and never trailed, outrebounding the Friars 21-11 at the break. Georgetown finished the game with a 43-28 advantage on the boards, including an 18-7 edge on the offensive glass.

The Hoyas converted on their second chances for 19 points, while holding the Friars to just four. Sweetney, just named to the First Team All-Big East, was the largest beneficiary of those points. He finished the game with 18 points and 10 rebounds, with six of those coming in the final five minutes. Playing with four fouls, Sweetney keyed a 9-2 Georgetown run to tie the game at 61 with three minutes remaining.

Then it was time for the freshmen to shoulder the load. Providence ended its scoring drought with a hook shot by freshman Ryan Gomes, who led the Friars with 20 points, but freshman guard Tony Bethel answered with an open three pointer from the corner to put Georgetown up 64-63. Linehan regained the lead for the Friars with just over two minutes left, 65-64.

The teams went scoreless until 14.8 seconds remaining when Drew Hall drove the baseline and drew a foul. Hall calmly converted both free throws (he hit all four of his attempts on the day) to put the Hoyas up 66-65, but Providence’s Abdul Mills drove uncontested down court for the go-ahead layup with 9.8 seconds left on the clock, setting the stage for Hall’s and Wilson’s heroics.

“I thought when we got down 59-52, I felt the guys made a great series of offensive and defensive plays to get us back in the ball game. Then Tony hit the three,” Esherick said. Hall finished the game with nine points and Braswell had 10 to go along with four assists.

“I think what showed today is we have a lot of players that can step up when they need to,” Braswell said.

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