NEW YORK -- After watching his team fall behind lowly Miami at halftime of last night's Big East quarterfinal game, John Thompson's 20th anniversary as head coach at Georgetown was shaping up to be less than satisfying.
"I told someone at halftime if anyone thinks this if fun, they're damn fool," said Thompson, whose team went into the locker room trailing 34-33. "It's only fun when it's over."
Thompson can thank Alonzo Mourning for providing the fun agame's end as the Big East Player of the Year scored 15 of his 28 points in the second half to help the Hoyas pull away in the 77-64 win before a crowd of 18,897 at Madison Square Garden.
Georgetown (20-8), the No. 2 seed, advances to today'semifinal where it will face No. 3 seed St. John's, which beat No. 6 seed Connecticut in overtime, 64-59. It marks the 11th time in 13 Big East tournaments that Georgetown, which is 24-6 in league tournament play, has advanced to at least the semifinals.
Although the Hoyas won by 13, advancing to the semifinals wanot easy against a Miami team most expected to have been back in Florida yesterday soaking in the sun. Playing in its first season in the Big East, Miami (8-25) won just one of 18 league games this season. But instead of an early and quiet exit, the 10th-seeded Hurricanes shocked No. 7 Pittsburgh Thursday night to set up yesterday's game with the Hoyas.
"They reminded me so much of a train building up steam," Thompson said of Miami's first year. "When we first started at Georgetown, we stayed in the station for two years. They played like they could beat anybody all year."
And they played that way last night, leading by as many as simidway through the first half on the way to a one-point lead at the break. Playing against a defense that allowed opponents to shoot just 39.7 percent from the field, the Hurricanes -- a 39.4 percent shooting team from the field going in -- shot 45.5 percent in the half. Three Hurricanes scored in double figures in the first 20 minutes -- for the season only one Miami player averaged in double figures.
"I felt in the first half we weren't rotating quick enough and thewere getting free shots," Thompson said. "They shot well. We let them break in the first half and got outran."
In the early stages of the second half Georgetown's strategwas clear -- get the ball to Mourning. The 6-foot-10 center, who had 13 in the first half, scored seven of Georgetown's first 12 second-half points to help the Hoyas to a 45-40 lead.
Miami was able to cut the deficit to 45-42 after AnthonLawrence hit two free throws with 14:50 left. But Georgetown responded with a 12-5 run -- which included three-pointers from Robert Churchwell and Irvin Church -- to take a 57-47 lead and control of the game.
The Hoyas shot 64.7 percent in the second half and 52.2 percent for the game. In addition to Mourning's big game, senior forward Brian Kelly scored a career-high 11 points and sophomore guard Joey Brown scored 14 points, had 10 assists and grabbed seven rebounds.
"They were a team that played smart and made adjustments thawe did not counter," said Miami coach Leonard Hamilton. "[Mourning] impressed me. He's an outstanding basketball player, probably the best player in the country."
When Mourning wasn't scoring (he was eight of 14 from thfield), he was drawing fouls on Miami's big men. Miami starting center Constantin Popa fouled out in just 20 minutes and back-up Lawrence (10 points, nine in the second half) accumulated five in 20 minutes.
"My teammates were able to get me the ball at good times," saiMourning, who hit 12 of 17 free throws. "We got a great deal of our baskets in transition. We put them in position where they were chasing us."
Although Thompson was happy with the victory on the 20tanniversary of his being hired at Georgetown, it capped somewhat of a bitter day for the Georgetown coach. Earlier in the afternoon Thompson spoke by phone with former point guard Charles Smith, who on Thursday was convicted of vehicular homicide in the deaths of two college students in Boston.
"The most frustrating moment of my career was at 4:30 p.m[yesterday] when Charles Smith called me from the penitentiary," Thompson said. "I cried like a baby."
But Thompson will try to set that frustration aside as he tries treach the Big East title game for the seventh time. Thompson is hoping a good performance here will help his team gain some momentum going into next week's NCAA tournament.
Big East tournament
.. .. .. .. FIRST ROUND .. .. .. .. Thursday's results Boston College 78, Providence 68
Miami 83, Pittsburgh 71
.. .. .. .. QUARTERFINALS Yesterday's results Syracuse 55, Villanova 52
Seton Hall 62, Boston College 60
Georgetown 77, Miami 64
St. John's 64, Connecticut 59, OT
.. .. .. .. SEMIFINALS .. .. .. .. Today's games Syracuse vs. Seton Hall, 1:30 p.m.
Georgetown vs. St. John's, 4 p.m.
.. .. .. .. CHAMPIONSHIP .. .. .. .. Tomorrow Semifinal winners, 12:30 p.m.