RICHMOND, Va. - Only minutes had passed since his team stormed into the second round of the NCAA East Regional, and New Mexico coach Dave Bliss was being pestered by reality.
He wanted to savor the Lobos' rout of Kansas State on Friday, at least for a while. They hadn't won an NCAA tournament game in 22 years. Bliss deserved some time to revel in the moment, but he couldn't not with Georgetown coming up next.
"The only complaint that we have," he said, "is when you win a game like that, you shouldn't have to play the Hoyas."
They didn't have a choice. And yesterday as the fouls continued to mount, junior guard Charles Smith continued to struggle and Georgetown's Allen Iverson continued his resurgence, they didn't have a chance.
The second-seeded Hoyas used the second-half shooting of Iverson and their endless supply of frontcourt muscle to get past New Mexico, 73-62, and into the Sweet 16.
This is the second consecutive year that the Hoyas (28-7) have reached the round of 16. They'll play No. 3 seed Texas Tech on Thursday in Atlanta.
Iverson made just two of eight shots in the first half, twice missing completely. He failed on all six three-point attempts. He had one assist and three turnovers. And he landed in foul trouble again, picking up his third with 4: 31 left before halftime and the game tied, 24-24.
That has been a familiar pattern for Iverson of late. It happened in the Big East tournament and again to some degree in Friday's opening round. But rather than be a nonfactor, Iverson became a force, making seven of 12 shots in the second half including four of five from three-point range to finish with 25 points. "I just relaxed," said Iverson, who has 56 points so far in the tournament. "At first, I was so hyped up that in the locker room my teammates told me to calm down and if I had the open shot, take it."
Smith had plenty, but made few. He scored 13 on 5-for-21 shooting, and as he dejectedly walked off the court, Bliss draped an arm around him.
"It was amazing that I got so many good looks at the basket, probably eight or nine. But sometimes that puts a lot of pressure on you," Smith said. "Basically, I started pressing myself after the first two or three shots, and I just fought myself."
New Mexico (28-5) had foul problems in the first half, as well, with two starters picking up three each. The Lobos also shot 40 percent from the field and were being out-rebounded, 24-19, but still led by three at the break.
The odds, and Georgetown's pressure defense, finally caught up to them.
Freshman center Kenny Thomas fouled out with 7: 20 left, and the Hoyas found greater success after abandoning the zone at the urging of sophomore Boubacar Aw, who convinced coach John Thompson at halftime to go man-to-man. Georgetown took the lead for good, 48-46, with 14 minutes left on Iverson's three-pointer, and slowly pulled away.
The Hoyas also were relentless on the boards. They finished with 20 offensive rebounds, including six by 270-pound sophomore reserve Jahidi White, who has earned more playing time in recent weeks.
Many of the Hoyas' second chances came off missed free throws, of which there were plenty. They went 13-for-31 from the line. But they would retain possession and either go back up or kick it out to Iverson or freshman guard Victor Page (14 points).
The Lobos earned Thompson's respect. "When I look at my schedule next year and see them, I'll choose St. Leo's," he said. "All the media people want a media event, and I'll tell them I'm playing a patsy."
Pub Date: 3/18/96