GEORGETOWN — With the Mid-South Conference lead and national rankings on the line, as well as a healthy representation by NBA scouts, Georgetown did what it had done to St. Catharine twice already this season.
Win a hard-fought, physical basketball game, this time 73-61, before a near-capacity crowd Thursday at Davis-Reid Alumni Gym.
Seventh-ranked Georgetown (20-2, 9-1 MSC) also downed the Patriots 78-66 in pre-conference play and 76-74 at St. Catharine.
Six NBA scouts were on hand to see Xavier Keeling, a 6-foot-7 senior from Huntsville, Ala. First choosing to play for now-ousted Indiana coach Kelvin Sampson, Keeling wound his way to Wallace Junior College and, last season, Detroit. He became eligible for St. Catharine at the semester break.
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That's also when the Patriots gained the services of a pair of juniors, 6-8 Troy Lambert and 6-6 Kashiff Carr.
J.T. Burton is in his third year as coach. He debuted with a five-win season, jumped to 21-11 last year and is 13-5 (7-3 MSC) this season. A 1997 graduate of St. Catharine — when it was a junior college — Burton played under Donnie Tyndall, now the Morehead State coach.
Burton's 13th-ranked Patriots never led Thursday.
Tied at 5 and 7, Georgetown led 37-25 at halftime.
St. Catharine pulled as close as 41-39 in the second half, when a three-pointer capped a run of eight straight Patriots points by Carr.
Tyrone Shelley led Georgetown with 15 points, all in the first half, and five rebounds. Vincent Crutcher added 13 points and five boards, point guard Eddie Gray had 12 points and six rebounds, and Rodney Haddix scored 11 points. Maurice Pearson scored five points and led the Tigers with eight rebounds.
Carr paced the visitors with 19 points and seven rebounds.
As for Keeling, he was held scoreless in the first half. He finished with nine points, shooting 2-for-8 from the field. He added seven rebounds but also had five turnovers.
The scouts had all cleared out with four minutes to play.
Tigers Coach Happy Osborne cited Crutcher and Vic Moses for containing Keeling.
"I can't say enough about their team and the job J.T. Burton's done. They're a great team. They're a national-championship caliber team," Osborne said. "Our defense was really good."
Osborne lauded the first-half play of Shelley and Aaron Morris. Down the stretch, he cited Gray and Matt Walls, who handled the ball, knocked down free throws and controlled the tempo.
St. Catharine was within six, 53-47, when Carr scored with 6:12 left.
After Johonne Hamilton scored on a drive for a 55-47 Tigers lead, Shelley fouled out with 5:30 left.
When the Tigers got the ball back, the shot clock winding under five seconds, Gray recovered a loose ball and launched a 25-footer for a 58-47 lead.
Moses then rebounded a Carr miss, and Gray converted with a driving scoop shot for a 60-47 edge with 4:16 left.