LANDOVER -- This was not Big East basketball at its best. Poor ballhandling. Missed dunks. Missed foul shots and shots from the floor in crunch time. Enough to make Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim mutter the word parity.
It was only fitting that last night's game between No. 6 Syracuse and No. 21 Georgetown end with the Hoyas missing three shots in the final four seconds and losing to the Orangemen, 58-56, before 19,035 at the Capital Centre.
Georgetown guard Ronny Thompson missed an 18-footer from the right baseline with four seconds left, and Hoyas center Dikembe Mutombo missed a follow-up with two seconds remaining.
Georgetown got the ball out of bounds, but Mutombo's shot in the lane rolled around the rim and to the right as the buzzer sounded.
The loss dropped Georgetown to 3-3 in the conference, 11-5 overall. Syracuse, tied for the conference lead entering the game, improved to 5-2 and 17-2 overall.
"The play was set up for one of the smaller guys to go to one corner, and another to the other side of the floor. Then we dump it off low to Alonzo [Mourning]," said Georgetown coach John Thompson of Thompson's shot. "But they collapsed on the big men, so we had to take the shot."
The Hoyas had trouble adjusting to that collapsing defense all night long. The Hoyas start two freshman guards and a freshman forward. So Boeheim had his team collapse on Mutombo, Georgetown 's 7-2 senior center, and 6-10 forward Alonzo Mourning, already slowed by a sprained arch in his foot.
The tactic forced the Hoyas backcourt to shoot outside. Freshman guards Joey Brown and Charles Harrison were a combined nine of 23 from the floor. Freshman Robert Churchwell was only two of five.
"They have to gain the experience and once they do, I think they're going to be pretty good ballplayers," said Boeheim, whose team won its second consecutive game at the Capital Centre after losing eight in a row.
"They shot well at times, but once they get more playing time, Georgetown may become the most improved team in the conference."
The Orangemen could use a little work, too. They shot only 19 of 47 from the field and had a 58-52 lead on a three pointer by guard Mike Hopkins with 3:19 left in the game. But they missed three foul shots and two jumpers in the remaining time to keep Georgetown in the hunt.
The Hoyas were just as bad. But Syracuse was eight of 14 in three-point field-goal attempts. Syracuse guard Dave Johnson led all scorers with 18 points, including two of three from three-point range. Orangemen forward Billy Owens, who finished with 13 points, also connected on two three-pointers and Hopkins was three for three.
Syracuse entered the game having made only 76 of 212 three-point attempts.
"They did a good job in the game of hitting those three-pointers early, and that set the tone for us catching up," said Thompson, who substituted for Mourning frequently during the game. "Jim did a good job of rotating five players on the perimeter and when a team shoots that well from three-point range, they're going to be tough to beat. Also, I think it's just as important for younger players to acclimated with Alonzo again just as much as getting playing time."
Said Boeheim: "I don't think there is a dominating team in the Big East right now. Anybody could beat anybody. With the exception of maybe Vegas and Arkansas, from No. 3 to 24, there is not that much of a difference."