- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 22, 2001


NEW YORK The sultans of swoon stumbled down the stretch again.

Georgetown junior point guard Kevin Braswell missed an open 3-pointer with three seconds left last night as St. John's held off the 21st-ranked Hoyas 73-70 at Madison Square Garden.

Braswell's miss might have ended the night, but it did not define it.

The Hoyas lost because they bumbled about for three pivotal minutes after spending the better part of the game clawing back into contention.

With 6:15 left, the Hoyas (20-6, 7-6 Big East) looked like a tidal wave about to crash on the same St. John's team that was disgraced by Duke 91-59 at the Garden on Sunday. Behind big men Ruben Boumtje Boumtje (14 points, 12 rebounds) and Mike Sweetney (13 points), the Hoyas trimmed an 11-point deficit to 65-63 at the 6:15 mark. Both of Georgetown's pivot pounders were having their way with the much smaller Red Storm inside, scoring 13 of Georgetown's 15 points as the Hoyas used a six-minute run to roar back into contact with St. John's as the game wound down.

St. John's reserve center Kyle Cuffe fouled out with 9:34 remaining trying to guard the duo. And starting Red Storm center Donald Emanuel was equally helpless, picking up his fourth foul just three minutes into the second half and watching most of the game from the bench.

Just as Georgetown was cranking up its inside game, the Red Storm offense that functioned so efficiently over the first 25 minutes was sputtering to a halt. Three times during Georgetown's six-minute charge, St. John's failed to get a shot off against the Hoyas' man-to-man defense.

But just when it seemed the Hoyas would take charge by ramming the ball inside, they lapsed into an incredible series of turnovers, allowing the anemic Red Storm to keep them at bay. On five consecutive possessions between 6:00 and 2:58, four Hoyas committed consecutive turnovers, leaving St. John's ahead 68-63 and setting up a dramatic finish that Georgetown easily could have avoided.

"We had a lot of unforced errors," said Georgetown coach Craig Esherick, whose team committed 21 turnovers for the game. "That one stretch killed us. That was a tough, tough stretch because it seemed like we would make a great defensive stop and just give it right back to them."

Said Braswell (19 points, seven turnovers) of the stretch: "That just can't happen. There was like two or three minutes there where we didn't even get a shot up."

Despite the drought, the Hoyas still had a chance to sneak away with a victory thanks to a pair of rousing late plays from Braswell and senior gunner Anthony Perry.

Perry pulled them within 71-68 on a 3-pointer from the corner with 1:16 remaining. Braswell then immediately stole the ball from St. John's small forward Willie Shaw and sprinted the length of the court to trim the lead to one with 1:05 left. But after St. John's point guard Omar Cook made two free throws with 24.5 seconds left, Braswell and Co. couldn't quite close the comeback.

"It didn't need to come down to Kevin's shot," said Boumtje Boumtje. "We turned the ball over so many times, and we were outrebounded [35-31] and outhustled. You can't win big-time games playing like that."

The Hoyas (20-6, 7-6 Big East), who are now 1-5 in league games decided by fewer than seven points, host Syracuse (20-6, 8-5) on Saturday in a pivotal divisional matchup. The winner likely will end up with a first-round bye in the Big East tournament and still have a shot at the West division title.

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