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Georgetown wins yet another close, controversial game

MILWAUKEE -- It might have sounded inappropriate, given what his team had just stolen from Marquette, but Georgetown coach John Thompson III launched into a line from "The Gambler" after another high-stakes game.

Asked where Saturday's 70-68 overtime victory ranked for Georgetown this season, Thompson took his cue from Kenny Rogers.

"We'll count our money later," he said.

After looking flat broke for the better part of 30 minutes, the Hoyas banked a lucrative road win and continued to sit atop the Big East standings. On the first day of college basketball's decisive month, Georgetown first raised red flags about its road toughness and ballhandling, then promptly lowered them with an intrepid comeback that reflected a tournament-tested team.

The game was neither smooth nor controversy-free. In many ways, it was classic Georgetown, which posted its first road win against a ranked opponent since beating Pittsburgh on Jan. 5, 2005.

"A couple times, we could have caved," center Roy Hibbert said. "We come into the huddle and we're down 11. Those situations always seem to happen, and we always seem to come out on top."

Even the eternal optimist in Hibbert had some degree of doubt as teammate Jonathan Wallace held the ball with the Hoyas down 63-60 and the seconds ticking away in regulation. Nineteen days earlier, Wallace had drawn a debatable foul in the backcourt with one-tenth of a second left and swished two free throws to beat Villanova 53-51.

But this seemed different. Wallace darted into the corner, appeared trapped against Marquette's Dominic James, then launched a wayward 3-pointer. The blaring Bradley Center practically drowned out the sound of official John Cahill's whistle with 2.8 seconds left.

"I was trying to dribble and draw contact, and I was able to draw contact on the shot," Wallace said. "Patrick [Ewing Jr.] set a screen for me coming down the sideline, which allowed me to get a little bit of space to make the play."

James collapsed to the court and lay there frozen, his blinking eyes the only part of his body still moving. Moments earlier, his teammate Dwight Burke was in the same shell-shocked position under the basket after being called for a blocking foul on Ewing with 11.2 seconds left.

Georgetown rescued again? No doubt. But Wallace still had to make the free throws, this time in an ear-splitting building instead of the comfy Verizon Center.

The first two swished through the net. The third hit iron twice before tumbling through.

"I knew what was at stake," Wallace said. "There was no second-guessing about it."

Wallace left the second-guessing for Marquette fans, several of whom chucked their light-up wands at the officials as they ran through the tunnel after the game.

Asked about his view of the final play in regulation, Golden Eagles coach Tom Crean paused. Six seconds passed.

"How do I say, 'Next question'?" he said. "I'm not going in there today. Sorry."

The conspiracy theories about Georgetown and the officials will continue, but in a game that hinges on opportunities, the Hoyas know how to cash in. Marquette repeatedly left the door open, missing seven of its first eight free-throw attempts, and Georgetown never slipped out of striking distance despite matching its season high with 21 turnovers.

Wallace was one of four starters who committed three or more turnovers, but he also overcame his miscues to finish with 20 points.

"I voted for Jeff Green first on the all-conference ballot last year and Jonathan Wallace next," Crean said. "He is outstanding."

The smaller 21st-ranked Golden Eagles exploited their speed on the break and amazingly held their own inside, but Georgetown's defense never let up. The 10th-ranked Hoyas held Marquette to 25 percent shooting in the second half and overtime. Forward Lazar Hayward, one of the league's most improved players, went scoreless for the first time this season.

On the final play in overtime, Marquette never got off a shot as Hoyas forward DaJuan Summers deflected a pass that led to a turnover.

"They aren't ranked No. 1 in our conference for no reason," Marquette guard Wesley Matthews said.

Thompson wasn't aware of his team's extended road drought against ranked teams, but Saturday's win has added value in the immediate future. Aside from a one-point victory against West Virginia on Jan. 26, Georgetown's road résumé looked suspect for a team trying to get back to the Final Four.

There are fewer doubts after the Hoyas (24-4, 14-3 Big East) joined Louisville as the only teams to beat Marquette on its home court. The Golden Eagles (21-7, 11-6) had won five straight before Saturday.

"We were fortunate," Thompson said. "This group of guys didn't want to lose."

Neither did Marquette, which received tremendous performances from Matthews (season-high 22 points), Jerel McNeal (17 points, 8 rebounds and 6 assists) and James (15 points). The Golden Eagles tirelessly attacked the basket, and their man-to-man defense produced 15 steals for the third straight game.

"We felt that was our win," Matthews said. "It was there, handily, and we pressed on the lead and gave it back. That's hard. When you leave the tank empty … and you still come up short, that's a hard thing to deal with."

The game drained Marquette but replenished the Hoyas, who begin preparation for the league-deciding home test against Louisville on March 8 before they ante up for the postseason.

"We could have packed it in at several points," Thompson said. "But this group is too resilient for that."

Adam Rittenberg covers college football and college basketball for ESPN.com. He can be reached at espnritt@gmail.com.