In the Big East championship game Syracuse became only the fourth conference team all season to shoot better than 50% against Georgetown, punctuating the fact that the '83-84 Hoyas have held their opponents to a collective .3966 shooting percentage, which will break an NCAA record in that category if they can sustain it. Field-goal defense, rather than points allowed, is the most accurate gauge of a team's fortifications. Of course, it would require a Gatling gun to stop St. John's brilliant guard, Chris Mullin, which is just about the only weapon the Hoyas eschewed in the semifinals.
Every time the smooth lefthander drifted through the Georgetown zone, a Hoya defender would nudge and/or smack him; heaven help Mullin when he actually had the ball. On one sequence four different Georgetown bouncers nailed Mullin hard in a pinball routine, only forward Ralph Dalton failing to get in his licks. "That's called impeding progress; it messes up my timing," Mullin said after somehow connecting on 10 of 14 shots and 9 of 9 from the line for the most painful 29 points on record. "But it was nothing dirty, just aggressive. I've been in rougher games...like, for instance, against Georgetown every time."
The championship game appeared to be Pearl time as the beguiling Syracuse freshman kept scoring from outside, penetrating, falling on the floor, dribbling through his legs and, it seemed, everyone else's, too. And then laughing at the wonder of it all—just as he had the night before while getting 30 points and nine assists in the Orange's 66-65 semifinal victory over Villanova.
Georgetown had buried Syracuse twice during the regular season, but this time Pearl simply grabbed the game by the throat early, shook it a few times and proceeded to embarrass the Hoyas. Georgetown's Smith was a particular foil; once, Pearl beat him easily to the basket, jawed some verbal trash his way, then grinned over to press row as if to say, "I own this chump." In the second half Washington even ripped a long defensive rebound away from Ewing, roared the other way and uncorked a magical hook pass through three defenders for the easy layup by Sean Kerins that gave Syracuse a 45-44 lead. Then it happened—3:52 left. Syracuse leading 57-54. A little Darth Vader music, maestro.
Bench-clearing squabbles happen routinely in the Big East. Georgetown-St. John's last year. Georgetown-Boston College last month. Georgetown-Anyone, anytime. This time the Hoyas' glowering hatchet man, Graham, responded to a hard-fought rebound by Syracuse's Andre Hawkins by shoving Hawkins to the floor, then taking a wild swing at him with an angry left hand. The punch missed, but referee Dick Paparo didn't. He rushed into the fray shouting "Out! Out!" apparently motioning Graham out of the game with repeated thrusts of an upraised thumb. A "flagrant foul" call added to the personal already called on Graham would have given Syracuse four free throws plus possession of the ball and possibly a nine- or 10-point lead—if Paparo had held his ground. However, after protracted huddles with the two other refs and the coaches, Paparo said he hadn't ejected Graham at all. Was he thumbing a ride on the Zamboni machine? Such a puzzlement.
Ultimately the Orangemen had to settle for only two free throws, and though they twice held five-point leads, they soon lost both Hawkins and Rafael Addison on fouls during the late Georgetown rally. With the game tied at 63, Syracuse set up for a final shot in regulation, but Smith exacted his revenge on Pearl by locking him in a defensive shell. Washington never got his hands on the ball, the wrong man (Kerins) took a wayward shot, and Georgetown romped away in the overtime, 19-8.
After it was over, Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim was livid, hurling a chair and calling the officials "gutless." Most embarrassing for the Big East was the fact that still another Georgetown game had been spoiled by an ugly incident, the inevitable result of the preposterous paramilitary atmosphere surrounding the team—Gene Smith used the term "war games" Saturday night—and fostered by the insecurities and philosophies of Thompson.
The clipboard jockeys who pass for Thompson's assistant coaches have physically restrained female journalists from the team's locker room and have refused to divulge the location of the team's road hotels to arena officials. Fenlon answers a request for a player interview by saying, "I will not permit it." Then there is Thompson himself, who preaches honesty and discipline and "professionalism" yet once sat still while Dalton played in a summer league under an assumed name; who seems to tolerate, if not promote, fisticuff explosions as a matter of course; who warns his players to "trust no one"; and who interrupts his players to reprimand reporters for asking them questions "in extremely poor taste."
Thompson is much praised for his "sensitive" nurturing of Ewing. "Patrick doesn't complain," the coach once said in one of his sensitive moments, "he retaliates." But a Washington newspaperman who knew Ewing as a fresh, open, good-natured high-schooler says Thompson has turned his star pivotman into "a surly punk."
Moreover, Thompson has long wielded his race like a baseball bat. When The Boston Globe's Michael Madden wrote that Georgetown basketball was "sick, paranoid and petty, pompous and arrogant," Thompson replied that "Black people have spent their entire lives trying to justify their actions to biased minds. I won't spend one more second."