- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 7, 2002

NEW YORK Some freshman heroics helped Georgetown survive a first-round fiasco.
With just under 10 seconds remaining and the Hoyas trailing Providence by a point in the first round of the Big East tournament yesterday, reserve guard Drew Hall took an inbound pass and threaded his way 90 feet through the defense before delivering a shovel pass to center Wesley Wilson for a game-winning slam.
The 68-67 victory sets up a second-round matchup today between the Hoyas (19-10) and No.20 Miami (21-6). Most observers agree that Georgetown must beat the Hurricanes to have any chance of earning an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament.
"I'll tell you one thing: We can't play like we did today and beat Miami," Georgetown captain Kevin Braswell said after the debacle against Providence (15-16). "That was an ugly game, I swear. Turnovers, missed free throws, fouls it was crazy."
It was far worse than crazy. In fact, if the NCAA had an ugly game Hall of Fame, yesterday's atrocity would get in on the first ballot. The Hoyas did everything in their power to throw away the game and a possible NCAA berth.
They missed 19 of 39 free throws, a Big East tournament record and a staggering number for a team that entered the game shooting 73.9 percent. They also committed 27 turnovers, matching another infamous Big East record, against swipemeister John Linehan and the Friars' frenetic full-court press. And three Georgetown starters spent the better part of the second half strapped with four fouls Braswell, leading scorer Mike Sweetney (18 points, 10 rebounds) and shooting guard Tony Bethel.
When Sweetney picked up his fourth foul with 14:12 remaining and the Hoyas leading 46-36, Georgetown came completely unglued offensively. Over the next eight minutes, Providence surged past the stagnant Hoyas behind some inspired full-court defense, Georgetown's ragged ball-handling and the gutsy play of Linehan (11 points, four assists, five steals) and freshman forward Ryan Gomes (20 points). The Friars completed a 23-6 run on a floater by Linehan, claming a 59-52 lead with 5:41 remaining.
Georgetown hadn't won a close game since December, losing five straight decided by five or fewer points. That history, combined with their shooting and ball-handling struggles, left most of the 17,741 fans at Madison Square Garden sensing an upset.
But after returning to the floor with just over six minutes remaining, the 6-foot-8, 260-pound Sweetney pulled the Hoyas back by scoring six quick points in the paint, overpowering the smallish Friars in the lane. Sweetney tied the game 61-61 with 2:57 remaining, and the freshman combo of Bethel and Hall provided some good vibes for the future by powering Georgetown's long-awaited closing kick.
Bethel drilled a 3-pointer between baskets from Gomes and Linehan to keep the Hoyas close and set up the game's wild closing sequence. With 14.8 seconds left, Hall was fouled along the baseline and shrugged off his team's poor example from the line by sinking both shots to give the Hoyas a 66-65 lead.
Providence responded immediately, as Abdul Mills abused reserve Courtland Freeman along the baseline with a reverse layup that gave the Friars a 67-66 lead with 9.8 seconds remaining.
That's when Hall authored the play of the game, belying his age with both his thoughts and actions. Hall did not wait for the Providence press to set up. Instead, he demanded the ball immediately and never hesitated in his end-to-end run.
"First of all, we didn't have any timeouts," said Hall, who finished with nine points and two assists. "That was all right because at the end of games when a team scores, it's better to push the ball. Because if you call a timeout, they get time to set up their defense and focus on us. When I got the ball, I just pushed it upcourt. I went past a couple of guys, forced their big man to commit to me at about the top of the lane and found Wes for the flush."
Incredibly, the 6-2 native of Silver Spring then had the presence of mind to find Linehan, who buzzed up the court and heaved up a falling one-hander from the foul line with Hall on his hip. Linehan's leaner was far too firm off the board as the buzzer sounded and Georgetown's entire bench came leaping and frolicking onto the floor.
"Man, that felt so good, because we've lost so many close games this year," said Braswell. "We lost three games in overtime and two more by one point. We were losing close games the whole season, so during the last 34 seconds I was just hoping one of them would finally go our way. I kept thinking, 'We've got to get a break at some point.' Today must have been that day."


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