Patrick Ewing had a cold. However, St. John's took sick. The Georgetown Hoyas were stung by questions regarding their physicality and domination. But the Big East crumbled in their wake. Coach John Thompson said he didn't feel comfortable. Yet the entire NCAA field must be trembling in all the brackets after Georgetown proved in Hoopageddon III at Madison Square Garden that it's much better to look maaaaavelous than to feel that way. The Hoyas administered three lethal blowouts to win the conference tournament, outrebounding the opposition by 143-90. In the final they drilled St. John's 92-80 in their rubber match for No. 1 as Ewing sat out more than half the game.
If that sounds as if the Hoyas made it seem that their bitter rivals didn't belong on the same court, right, they didn't. While Georgetown shooters Michael Jackson, Bill Martin, David Wingate and Reggie Williams, who together accounted for 23 baskets, made up for the absence of the foul-plagued Ewing and helped weave a defensive cloak the size of Queens over the home team, St. John's turned to jelly. Flavor: Mull-Berry. Chris Mullin didn't bother shooting for the first 12 minutes of the second half, and Walter Berry, nicknamed the Truth, bore false witness by shuffling to the sideline during the rout clutching his right bicep. "At least we know it isn't a heart attack," said one courtside pundit.
Forget about the statistical veneer—St. John's shooting .520 to Georgetown's .569, the Redmen forcing Ewing to the bench for 11 minutes in the first half and 10 in the second, St. John's seizing on two straight technical fouls on Thompson for a seven-point play. The fact is, Mullin's were the quietest 25 points in memory (he had only two second-half baskets), and most of his costar's 14 came too late, typically Berry blossom time.
What really mattered was that suddenly a Georgetown team that had been touted as being finesse-minded and even friendly, came crashing out from behind its Mr. Peepers wimp disguise to take on the personality of the chips, shards and nasties featured in the Hoyas' rush to the NCAA championship last March. "My kids know what time of year it is," Thompson said with a certain glee.
And, sure enough, here came the hammerin' Hoyas once again—crunching bodies, balling fists, woofing and glaring, scrapping on the perimeter and pounding the Redmen on the boards. Georgetown outrebounded St. John's by 36-19 and scored 20 points on tip-ins, slapbacks and other punishing moves underneath. "We were getting good first shots and even better seconds," said Martin of his team, which leads the nation in rebound margin, not to mention intimidation.
One night after Ewing engaged in a frightening rumble with Pearl Washington of Syracuse, Hoya freshman Perry McDonald—a former Golden Glover, uh-oh—nearly came to blows with Mullin. Georgetown's Williams did punch Ron Rowan of St. John's, after which both players were ejected. "It's amazing we got 80—unbelievable, fantastic," said St. John's coach Lou Carnesecca, as if 79 were the over-under. "It was murder out there...but look on the bright side. Play these guys enough and you're ready for anything. Unless you're dead."
Fulfilling Thompson's vow to finish the season "in full force," Georgetown had won its last four regular-season games by 24, 21, 16 (over St. John's) and 27 points, respectively, while holding the opposition to 37.1% shooting. Moreover, the Hoyas' renewed emphasis on bounding and bolting away with the goods gives the champions the appearance of a sprint-hurdles relay team, if there is such a phenomenon. Thompson acknowledged that Georgetown's two midseason defeats had allowed the Hoyas to establish "a new identity and personality. We became this year's team."
"Like a sports car—finely tuned," said Boston College coach Gary Williams, "rather than the usual Georgetown pickup truck." Or bulldozer.
"I haven't quite gotten used to it [the running game]," Thompson said. "Sometimes I want to say whoa and pull on the reins. But the ball has already gone in the basket."
Before the tournament, the rest of the Big East seemed to have already gone south—Boston College losing its final three games, Syracuse dropping three of its last four, Villanova limping from a 23-point whipping by Pittsburgh. Even St. John's staggered to the wire after suffering Hoyan vengeance in that 85-69 slaughter at the Garden a week earlier. Falling on a spin move, dribbling off his leg, loafing, Berry was booed in the Redmen's final home game, a 72-53 defeat of Providence. "People see me going 75 percent," said Sour-Berry, "but I'm getting the job done as well as someone who's giving 100 percent."