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"Georgetown," said the reporter.
Overhearing this apostasy Mullin, who had been filling a nearby basket, said, "If you think that, you can get out of my gym. Hey, if this were Georgetown, you wouldn't even be in the gym."
St. John's had every reason to be optimistic. It was 14-1, having lost 62-59 to Niagara in a game Moses had missed. Mullin had shaken off an early-season shooting slump, ostensibly by donning a T shirt under his singlet the same night Looie donned the Sweater, but more likely by running the baseline incessantly and being more patient. Against Boston College he'd scored only eight points in the first half, yet finished with 24. He didn't get his first shot against Syracuse until 11:30 into the game, but ended up with 29 points. What's more, since the Niagara fall Berry had begun to emerge as a key ingredient in the Redmen's mix. The Georgetown game would be his midterm exam. The Hoyas, by contrast, had become more vulnerable with time. To be sure, they were winning games at the same dizzying pace as last season's NCAA champions. But they were doing it without guards Gene Smith and Fred Brown, who graduated, and Michael Graham, the de-Mohawked Mr. T of the frontcourt, who, because of academic problems, has taken his scowl to the University of the District of Columbia. The result is a Georgetown team less oriented toward intimidation and more toward basketball. One result of that: great stats. Going into Saturday's game, the Hoyas were holding opponents to sub-40% field-goal shooting as they did last season, but they were also outscoring the opposition by nearly 20 points a game, more than three better than in 1983-84.
In the Big East, however, with its grueling home-and-home prelims to the conference tournament in March, the Hoyas have been demystified. Villanova took them into OT on Jan. 12. A week earlier Boston College had done the same. Even as St. John's was delivering its Saturday balloon-buster, Syracuse was priming for its shot before a Monday night crowd of some 32,000 in the Carrier Dome.
It was the Redmen who had pinned the last loss on Georgetown, a similar 75-71 run-out-and-stave-'em-off job almost a year ago in the same arena. This time St. John's came in ranked No. 2, making this the first confrontation between intraconference rivals ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in the nation since North Carolina and Virginia hooked up in 1983. "Patrick Ewing is a great intimidator," the 6'8" Berry had said this fall, upon arriving at St. John's after a one-season side trip to San Jacinto (Texas) College. "But he doesn't intimidate me."
In roughly five minutes of the second half, with the Hoyas hanging fairly close at 43-34, Berry, who finished with 14 points and 13 boards, made this eminently clear. First he grabbed a rebound and kicked the ball out to Mullin (20 points and eight rebounds), who stroked in a pull-up J. Call it a Mull-Berry. Then Berry flicked in a teasing floater in the lane over Ewing. That was a Razz-Berry. With refreshing egalitarianism, he swatted away a short jumper by 6'10" Grady Mateen and consecutive shots by 6'11" Ralph Dalton and the 6'2" Jackson. The Boys 'n' Berry. He stuck a baseline pop and another from the key. Ah, Berry, Berry Good. Then he fed Moses for a jumper from the right of the circle. Berry That Sucker. After Mullin slammed home the refuse from another Berry block, St. John's led 57-39, the 18-point margin that Georgetown could not make up. "Take away the schools," said Berry, who would encore with a chin-up on the rim after a Cram-Berry, "take away the crowd and forget about the T shirts, and it's the same game I've played every Saturday afternoon of my life."
Just after Mullin's breakaway dunk, with more than 10 minutes to go, Ewing drew his fourth personal going over Berry's back for a rebound. And suddenly, curiously, just when they should have had Georgetown gasping for air, the Red-men sputtered to a stop. "It looked like we were glued to the floor," Carnesecca said. Wennington all but became un-glued, missing two dunks and making two turnovers. Berry called the rest of the game "the longest 10 minutes of my life."
Martin, Broadnax and Wingate began their slashing, scoring moves from the perimeter, while Ewing inspired his mates to bare their teeth and elbows in the Hoyas' ferocious hungry-dog defense. St. John's still clung to a 63-53 lead with 2:48 left. But from that point the Redmen squandered nine of 12 possible points from the foul line, including misses on the front ends of four one-and-ones.
Mullin scored the final three St. John's points, all from the line, including the game-winner with 25 seconds left after Hoya coach John Thompson called a time-out to ice him. "I asked Chris about the weather, anything to get his mind off the shot," Carnesecca said. "I've been through this before with Georgetown. It's not always enough to be up by 18. Thank God we had that cushion."
Afterward, the Sweater needed another wringing. Wennington, whom Carnesecca calls The Edge ("We don't win without him"), was getting credit in the Georgetown locker room for his job on Ewing and for his performance as middleman against the Hoya press. When St. John's assistant Brian Mahoney called home, his 5-year-old daughter, Kerry, said "Hello. We're the number one team in the country."