When a future
edition of Trivial Pursuit asks what factor finally decided the nuclear
slamathon between Akeem Abdul Olajuwon of Nigeria/Houston and Patrick Ewing of
Jamaica/Georgetown in the year of our Face, 1984, it would be wise to answer:
support. Because while Olajuwon barely gave or received any in the NCAA final
Monday night in Seattle, Ewing benefited from the help of such a variety of
athletes that it was difficult to keep track of who was doing what on his
marvelous Georgetown team. Whoops, here comes the duck again. Did someone say
the Hoya magic word—team?
"Sit down so
I can see," Houston coach Guy V. Lewis shouted at his assistants toward the
end of the 84-75 win that gave Georgetown 34 victories this season (the most
since Kentucky's 36 in 1947-48), along with the Hoyas' first national
championship. But would better visibility for Guy V. have helped?
coach John Thompson and academic coordinator Mary Fenlon: the first black coach
to win the title and the first woman "assistant" to grace a
championship bench. Forget, if you will, even Ewing and the familiar collective
attitude that has made the Hoyas into the Boys of Simmer. Was that 6'9"
freshman Michael Graham, the leering lefthander, practically tearing down the
rims? Or Bill Martin? Was that 6'7" freshman Reggie Williams floating in
and out of the Houston halfcourt traps as fast as you can say David Wingate? Or
was that David Wingate? Was that 6'1" Michael (Not That One) Jackson
breakdancing around and virtually under the taller Cougars? Or Horace Broadnax?
As the 7-foot juniors Ewing (10 points, nine rebounds and four blocks) and
Olajuwon (15, nine and one) fought to a foul-plagued standstill—specifically,
Olajuwon did a lot of standing still, looking for the ball and grumbling when
his teammates didn't give it to him—it was the crucial 50 collective minutes of
work by freshman subs Graham and Williams, who between them had 33 points and
12 rebounds, that probably spelled the difference. Then again Martin and
Wingate combined for 22 points in 48 minutes. Who was who? Phi Slamma Jamma may
still be wondering.
The simple truth
is Georgetown won the championship with as deep and versatile a collection of
players as the NCAA tournament has ever known. And the Hoyas have just begun.
Go ahead and expand the 1985 field to 4,000 teams and play till July. In its
two games in Seattle, Georgetown had 57 baskets, and the scorers of 54 of those
are coming back next year. "I play against a lot of good players,"
Ewing said when asked to evaluate his longtime-no-see rival, Olajuwon,
"especially in practice."
the championship game as if it was taking target practice, the Cougars nailing
seven shots in a row to lead 14-6. But Georgetown was in a zone and feeling the
absence of its emotional defensive leader, senior guard Gene Smith, who was out
with a strained arch suffered in the Hoyas' 53-40 semifinal blowout of
Kentucky. As Houston's Reid Gettys would say later, "Perimeter shots aren't
exactly our Sunday punch." Or Monday. Smith never did play, but Georgetown
switched to man-to-man pressure with Wingate on the Cougars' Michael Young, who
had hit three straight baskets. Young promptly delivered two air balls, and the
Hoyas scored 18 of the next 22 points. During that stretch, while Ewing and
Olajuwon, in Ewing's words, "felt each other out," a frustrated Young
exploded downcourt intent on squashing a dunk upon Ewing, who stood his ground
as Young crash-landed on the Hoya's solar plexus. Young was whistled for
charging, and he missed the dunk besides. Olajuwon, who was open under the
basket, chastised his teammate as they ran off the floor for a time-out.
Georgetown took a 40-30 halftime lead; as Olajuwon picked up his third and
fourth fouls in the last 49 seconds of the first half and first 23 of the
second; as the Cougars resorted to an offense consisting solely of guard Alvin
Franklin's triple-pumping, off-balance vaudeville jumpers in the lane; the
pattern held. The Hoyas sent wave upon wave of players into the fray, all of
whom were bent on helping one another, while Houston was forced to play
catch-up with a catch-as-catch-can style. "They play team ball, the way
it's supposed to be played," Akeem the Steam would say. "We play
selfish. I was open and my teammates said they missed me. But how many times
can they miss me?"
"This was a
battle of the benches. How can the man [Lewis] forget the athletes he has on
the bench?" said Benny Anders, who got 10 minutes of action after DNP-ing
in the semis. In all, the Houston subs saw 29½ minutes of light; the Hoya bench
played for 74½.
on the inside, he can't see what's going on with all those guys around
him," said Young, who missed 13 of his last 18 shots.
"I told Akeem
we were trying to get him the ball," Lewis said. "Damn! He still does't
know the game. Benny? We don't pay attention to that."
Just one big