- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 19, 2003

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. Georgetown coach Craig Esherick was glad he accepted a bid to the National Invitation Tournament this year.

A year after declining an invitation, Mike Sweetney had 17 points and 14 rebounds and Ashanti Cook scored a career-high 16 points as the Hoyas beat Tennessee 70-60 in the first round of the NIT on last night.

Georgetown rejected the bid last year because school officials said they didn't want to travel very far or have the players miss more classes. Esherick had campaigned hard for an NCAA berth but didn't get one, and the decision to shun the NIT caused a stir.

"I accepted the invitation last year originally when we first were told who we were going to play, and actually put a tape of the team in my briefcase and was getting ready to leave the office," he said. "I should have left the office and maybe I wouldn't have gotten into the public relations difficulties I got into. But I don't want to revisit that.

"But I'm very glad we're playing the NIT and I wish we had been able to play in the NIT last year."

The Hoyas (16-14) used a 12-1 run to begin the second half to take the lead and kept the Volunteers (17-12) from rallying.

Gerald Riley added 15 points and Victor Samnick had 11 for Georgetown, which advances to a second-round game next week. The date and opponent has yet to be determined.

Ron Slay, the Southeastern Conference's player of the year, finished his career at Tennessee with 17 points.

"I told Ron, 'I appreciate everything you've done for the University of Tennessee and the men's basketball program,' " Tennessee coach Buzz Peterson said. "I said, 'Son, you've had a tremendous career and a tremendous year coming off the knee injury. Don't let this one game disappoint you.' "

Thaydeus Holden added 12, Brandon Crump had 11 and C.J. Watson 10 for the Vols, who felt snubbed by the NCAA selection committee because they had a 9-7 SEC record. Alabama made the tournament with the same overall record and a 7-9 SEC mark.

Tennessee's Elgrace Wilborn added six blocks and 11 rebounds.

"I've been in that position where you don't make the NCAA tournament and you think that you should have been in the tournament or thought you had a real good chance of making the tournament. Then as they say, your bubble has burst," Esherick said. "That was a tough game I'm sure for them."

The Vols have been off balance since losing senior guard Jon Higgins, who was ruled academically ineligible for the postseason on March 10. Tennessee had 19 turnovers.

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