NEW YORK -- Sitting on top of the National Collegiate Athletic Association bubble, the Georgetown Hoyas took the first step last night toward controlling their fate.
Entering the game with a "win it and you're in it" approach, the sixth-seeded Hoyas shook off a slow start to defeat third-seeded Connecticut, 68-49, to advance to today's Big East semifinals.
Georgetown's opponent this afternoon will be seventh-seeded Providence, which advanced with an upset of second-seeded St. John's. The win by the Hoyas (17-11) in the last quarterfinal capped a day in which the top three seeds fell.
Though many have said the Hoyas needed at least one win in the Big East tournament to gain an NCAA bid, Georgetown coach John Thompson was not concerned with such talk.
"We can't control what happens with the NCAA," Thompson said. "We came in thinking we can control what happens with Connecticut."
And in the end, the Hoyas controlled the Huskies, as Dikembe Mutombo (13 points and a Big East tournament-record 27 rebounds) and Alonzo Mourning (19 points, with 15 of 16 free throws) owned the boards and effectively shut down any Connecticut attempt at an inside game. Georgetown won despite shooting 28.3 percent from the field (17 of 60).
"We have never been overly concerned about shooting percentage," said Thompson, whose team held Connecticut to 32.1 percent from the field. "When I thought we were horrible, we were ahead or real close. The game was playing very strangely."
Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun wasn't around to see the upset, after being ejected with his second technical foul with 7 minutes, 32 seconds left in the first half. Georgetown scored six in the sequence during which no time elapsed, took its first lead and never trailed again.
"I don't know what I did to pick up the second [technical]. I was sitting down at the time," Calhoun said. "From what I did see, Georgetown just squeezed us defensively and didn't allow us to get near the basket. That caused frustration, and that's what won them the game."
Georgetown shot 22.9 percent in the first half (the Hoyas missed their first eight shots from the field) and still had a 34-30 lead. With 10 minutes left, the Hoyas led, 50-40, and increased the lead to as many as 21. The victory was a bit of revenge for the Hoyas, who lost, 65-60, to Connecticut in the semifinals of the Big East tournament last year.
Now the Hoyas will face Providence, with whom they split two games this season. Thompson thinks that is an indication of the balance in the league -- balance that he believes hurts the Big East as far as consideration for tournament bids.
"This league is just that competitive and just that tough that we are really destroying each other this year," Thompson said. "It seems we need to get away from each other so we can stop self-destructing."
Despite the way the Hoyas have shot this season, they proved their defensive pressure -- they were first in the nation in field-goal percentage allowed -- gives opponents fits. It would be hard to imagine the Hoyas not getting into the tournament.
"I don't think anybody in the NCAA would want to start off playing us," Mourning said. "Tonight was a big game for us, and we're just taking it one game at a time."
GEORGETOWN (68) -- Churchwell 2-11 1-2 5, Mourning 2-8 15-16 19, Mutombo 4-8 5-8 13, Brown 2-12 1-1 5, Harrison 4-16 5-6 15, Morgan 1-1 4-5 6, Thompson 0-0 0-0 0, Kelly 2-4 1-1 5. Totals 17-60 32-39 68.
CONNECTICUT (49) -- Burrell 5-14 0-3 11, Walker 2-4 0-1 4, Sellers 1-4 2-3 4, Pikiell 1-2 0-0 3, Smith 5-15 6-7 17, Cyrulik 1-2 1-2 3, Gwynn 1-8 1-2 3, DePriest 1-4 2-3 4. Totals 17-53 12-21 49.
Halftime--Georgetown 34, Connecticut 30. 3-point goals--Georgetown 2-10 (Harrison 2-5, Mourning 0-1, Churchwell 0-2, Brown 0-2), Connecticut 3-13 (Pikiell 1-1, Smith 1-3, Burrell 1-7, Gwynn 0-1, DePriest 0-1). Fouled out--None. Rebounds-- Georgetown 47 (Mutombo 27), Connecticut 45 (Burrell 12). Assists--Georgetown 6 (Brown 3), Connecticut 11 (Burrell 4). Total fouls--Georgetown 21, Connecticut 23. Technicals--Connecticut coach Calhoun 2 (ejected), DePriest, Mourning. A--19,081.