LANDOVER -- Beating St. John's never has been an easy task for Georgetown, especially on the Hoyas' home court. So when the Redmen started making some remarkable shots to close what had been a 10-point deficit late in the second half, there was reason enough for concern.
No need to worry. Neither the success St. John's has had this season nor its hex over the Hoyas at the Capital Centre continued last night. Though the fifth-ranked Redmen were able to cut their deficit to two points twice in the final minute, No. 18 Georgetown hung on for a 59-53 victory.
"I thought the kids maintained their composure," Georgetown coach John Thompson said after the Hoyas beat St. John's for only the fourth time here in 10 games. "I thought it was a game that we had to win with patience."
In the end, it was a game the Hoyas won with defense and free throws. Despite not making a field goal in the last nine minutes, Georgetown held St. John's to a season-low 36.5 percent (23 of 63 from the field) and junior forward Malik Sealy, the Big East's second-leading scorer, to 13 points on six-of-14 shooting.
More significantly, the Hoyas made 18 of 22 from the line, including their last 14, 10 of those in the final 83 seconds. Two pairs of free throws by Alonzo Mourning, each after St. John's (15-3, 6-3) came within two points, helped keep the Redmen at bay.
The free-throw shooting prevented Thompson from reliving a nightmare that happened many times during the past decade: losing to St. John's because of guy named Mullin. Last night it was junior guard Terence Mullin -- the younger brother of the former Redmen star and Georgetown nemesis Chris Mullin -- who hit a couple of big shots down the stretch.
"We were struggling, but Alonzo kept making his free throws," said freshman guard Joey Brown.
Brown and fellow freshman guard Charles Harrison shot Georgetown (13-5, 5-3) into a nine-point halftime lead with an 11-0 run in the last four minutes. Brown closed the spurt with an 18-footer, and Harrison scored 12 of his team-high 18 points in the first half.
"They played like veterans," St. John's coach Lou Carnesecca said of Georgetown's freshman guards. "We knew we'd have to give him [Harrison] some attention. He's been shooting pretty well."
While Mourning still is struggling to get back into the flow of Georgetown's offense after missing six weeks with a strained left arch, Dikembe Mutombo was again a force for the Hoyas. The senior center finished with 17 points -- 11 in the second half -- to go along with 12 rebounds and five blocked shots.
Thompson and Mourning were quick to point to the maturation of the two freshman guards as a vital part in Georgetown having a chance at winning the Big East this season. Though they rushed some shots down the stretch last night, Brown and Harrison each hit a pair of key free throws.
"They're getting accustomed. Time's the only thing to help them; time is what we need," said Thompson.
Said Mourning: "The younger guys are gradually gaining confidence. The longer the season goes on, the more confident they're going to be."
The victory kept Georgetown very much in the conference race, and the defeat for St. John's denied Carnesecca his 500th career victory. "What about it?" he said. "Give it a rest. It'll come in time. But I'd trade the one tonight for a bunch of them."
Considering the history between these two teams, so might the Hoyas.