TUCSON,ARIZ — TUCSON, Ariz. -- Junior forward Alonzo Mourning and the Georgetown Hoyas, both weighted down by lofty preseason expectations, may have needed a postseason tournament to prove their true worth.
Mourning, projected as an All-America pick and future National Basketball Association lottery selection, showed a large contingent of professional scouts that he still has a world of potential after being slowed by injuries most of the season. He scored 23 points, grabbed eight rebounds, blocked three shots and was 7-for-9 from the field in leading the Hoyas (19-12) to a 70-60 victory over the Vanderbilt Commodores (17-13) in the opening round of the National Collegiate Athletic Association West Regional.
Georgetown earned the dubious distinction of playing the winner of the game between unbeaten Nevada-Las Vegas and Montana in the second round on the University of Arizona campus tomorrow.
After blowing a 12-point lead early in the second half to trail
Vanderbilt, 40-39, Georgetown turned to its inside power game. Five straight points by Mourning sparked a 9-2 Hoyas run for a 51-42 margin. Vanderbilt, led by guard Scott Draud's 23 points, drew no closer than five the rest of the way.
"After Vanderbilt made that run in the second half, we kept our composure," said Mourning, who is expected to return for his senior year. "We were patient, and when they sagged on me, our freshman guards -- Joey Brown and Charles Harrison -- hit the pressure shots. I no longer consider them freshmen."
Asked whether he thinks Georgetown deserves its place in the NCAA field, Mourning said: "We're here, and that's the bottom line. Whatever the critics said is unimportant now."
The Hoyas showed better balance than usual. Brown kept the Vanderbilt defense honest with his outside shooting, finishing with 14 points.
The game began in predictable fashion with Georgetown trying to force the ball inside to Mutombo and Mourning, and Vanderbilt setting up its perimeter shooters.
The early strategy worked better for the Hoyas, who jumped out to an 8-3 lead highlighted by a Mutombo slam.
Vanderbilt altered its offense, running center Steve Grant along the baseline, where he scored inside and made a corner jumper to close to 10-7. But Georgetown's aggressive defense led to a pair of turnovers that Mourning and Brown converted into baskets for a 17-9 cushion.
Mourning, who missed nine games with a sprained left arch, demonstrated his pre-injury skills. The 6-foot-10 junior dribbled past shorter rivals or posted up inside. When the Commodores sagged their defense, Brown found the mark from three-point range to stretch the lead to 24-11 midway through the first half.
The biggest disparity was on the boards, where the Hoyas out-rebounded the shorter Commodores, 12-2, in the first 14 minutes.
Intimidated by Mutombo's presence, Vanderbilt settled for the outside shot. Forward Bruce Elder hit two medium-range jumpers to close the score to 26-18.
The Hoyas, showing excellent ball movement, answered with a 9-3 tear to boost their advantage to 35-21. Mutombo casually deposited a lob pass from Brown to cap the run.
At halftime, Georgetown was in control with its 35-25 lead.
Vanderbilt displayed more fire at the start of the second half. Suddenly, it was the Commodores who were blocking shots, slamming home baskets and out-muscling the Hoyas on the boards.
A jam by Grant sparked Vanderbilt's comeback. When Draud followed with a three-point shot and Todd Miholland followed with a layup, the team from Nashville was trailing by only a basket. When Matt Maloney's three-pointer gave Vanderbilt its first lead, 40-39, with 15 minutes left, the crowd rallied in support of the underdogs.
The lead was short-lived. Mutombo answered with a three-point play to push the Hoyas back on top, 42-40.
After Draud's bank shot tied the game, Georgetown concentrated on working the ball down low to Mourning and Mutombo. The inside game produced five straight points by Mourning and gave the Big East representatives a 49-42 bulge.
Just when it appeared the Hoyas were ready to put the game away, a temper tantrum by coach John Thompson enabled Vanderbilt to stay in contention.
Thompson tossed a towel in protest of a charging call against Mutombo and drew a technical. Draud converted two free throws. Vanderbilt retained possession, and Charles Mayes buried a three-pointer to pull his team within a field goal at 51-49.
But the Hoyas regained their poise. Mourning's two free throws and an acrobatic layup by Brown padded the lead.
Georgetown's freshman guards, inconsistent shooting outside all season, finally buried the Commodores. Two jumpers by Harrison and Mutombo's slam made it 65-53 with 2:30 remaining, and Thompson finally relaxed.