NEW YORK -- In a bump-and-grind game that has become the staple of play in the Big East, second-seeded Georgetown withstood a late comeback by St. John's and escaped with a 68-64 win before a sellout crowd at Madison Square Garden and advanced to this afternoon's championship game.
Georgetown's opponent will be fifth-seeded Syracuse, whicearlier overcame a 12-point deficit and poor shooting early to defeat top-seeded Seton Hall, 70-66. For the Orangemen (20-9), it was the 24th win in the past 25 games against the Pirates (21-8).
Georgetown (21-8) advanced behind 24 points by AlonzMourning, who set tournament records for free throws made and attempted (17 of 22).
"I expected it -- that's what Coach pointed to in the scoutinreport," Mourning said of the physical play when the Redmen collapsed on him. "Our team does a great job using it to our advantage by sitting out there and taking open shots."
Unfortunately for Georgetown, the Redmen didn't allow anopen shots after a dunk by freshman Lonnie Harrell with 6:33 left -- the team's last field goal, which gave the Hoyas a 51-41 lead. From then, St. John's fouled on every Georgetown possession. Mourning hit 15 of 20 free throws in the second half, with 14 of the attempts coming in the final five minutes.
The strategy worked, as the Hoyas made 15 of 24 free throws down the stretch. St. John's pulled to within 65-64 after Jason Buchanan made a three-pointer with four seconds left. But there was no time left to the comeback: With no timeouts left, the Redmen called one and were given a technical foul. Mourning hit one of two, and then hit two more after being fouled on the inbounds pass to close the scoring.
"Would you believe we had a shot at the game?" said St. John'coach Louie Carnesecca. "They controlled the tempo throughout the game, and we couldn't get a run until the last couple of minutes. I look at the clock and we're down 10, then we chip away, chip away and it's down to one. But it's no cigar."
The Hoyas got key contributions from Robert Churchwell (1points) and Harrell (11 points in 20 minutes). But, as usual, one key was the Georgetown defense -- St. John's shot 36.2 percent from the field.
Another key was getting the ball into Mourning, the most fouleplayer in the Big East. In the first half, the 6-foot-10 center scored six points and attempted two free throws.
"I think we were a little more patient in the second half when wopened up the lead," said Georgetown coach John Thompson. "They did a good job keeping the ball from Alonzo in the first half, and we took our time in the second half to get it to him."
The Hoyas will be making their second straight appearance ithe title game, their seventh overall. Syracuse is making its fifth .. appearance in the Big East finals in the past seven years.
The Orangemen advanced despite shooting 28.6 percent frothe field in the first half, and all can thank Michael Edwards for the appearance in today's title game. The reserve guard scored 12 -- 10 in a stretch of just more than two minutes that helped the Orangemen from a 53-48 deficit to a 58-58 tie with 5:31 left.
Edwards' biggest basket came with less than a minute left in thgame, when, with the score tied at 66 and Seton Hall looking to take the lead, the 5-10 guard picked off a handoff from Pirates guard Bryan Caver to teammate Terry Dehere (18 points) and scored on a driving layup to put the Orangemen up for good, 68-66, with 40.4 seconds left.
The Pirates had one more possession for either a tie or a leadbut Dehere's jumper with two seconds left fell short. Dave Johnson grabbed the rebound and hit two free throws with 0.9 seconds left for the 70-66 Syracuse win.
Edwards was mobbed by his teammates after the final horn. starter for two years before this season, Edwards' role was severely diminished this season. He left the team 11 days ago and missed the March 4 game at Connecticut because, as coach Jim Boeheim said, "he wanted to take some time and study."
"When you go from a starter to not playing, that's a tremendoudisappointment," said Boeheim, who wanted to go with bigger guards this season to help with defense and rebounding. "Sometimes that's a tough situation for a kid."
Edwards made the most of his 14 minutes of play yesterday, ahe made five of eight field goals, including two three-pointers.
"He's had a problem with confidence this year," said MikHopkins, a 6-5 guard who starts in the backcourt along with Adrian Autry. "But when he gets his confidence, there's not a better shooter on the team."
Johnson also had a big role in the win, recovering from a 2-for-shooting performance in the first half to score nine of Syracuse's last 11 points. Johnson, who scored 27 points and hit a tournament-record six three-pointers in Friday's quarterfinal win over Villanova, played the whole game and finished with 20 points and 10 rebounds.