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Alexander Wolff
February 05, 1990
In the beastly Big East, Connecticut has become one of the top dogs
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February 05, 1990

Mush, You Huskies

In the beastly Big East, Connecticut has become one of the top dogs

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The Dove contributed his usual four steals against the Redmen, including a huge one, with just over five minutes to play, that resulted in a John Gwynn layup and a 57-51 Huskies lead. But Henefeld and George struggled offensively. So guard Chris Smith threw in 20 for UConn, and three players off the bench—Dan Cyrulik, Scott Burrell and Gwynn—picked up for the slumping starters, each going for double figures.

Notwithstanding St. John's loss last Saturday, and even without Henefeld, the Redmen's frontcourt is as well balanced as any in the country. Malik Sealy is all willowy finesse. Robert Werdann is an occupying power. And Jayson Williams, who missed 10 games at the start of the season while recuperating from a broken foot, sprang for 23 in an 83-75 victory last week at Providence, where St. John's has rarely won lately. "Two years ago we lost and I ended up in jail," said Williams, who had been charged with assault—the charge was later dropped—for chucking a chair at a spectator that evening. "Tonight we won, and I'm free."

As floor leader, Boo Harvey gets more and more comfortable running a team that walk-it-up coach Lou Carnesecca has allowed more freedom. "We're like a luxury sports car," says Williams. "We can go fast if we want to, but we can slow it down and look good at the same time."

For a while, Syracuse resembled a stretch limo that couldn't take a corner. First, guard-poor coach Jim Boeheim stuck two thirds of the best front line in the nation—Stevie Thompson and Billy Owens—in his backcourt. They ate up the Orangemen's mediocre December fare, but conference teams threw thickety zones at them, and Syracuse couldn't sink an outside shot. After the astonishing loss to Villanova, Boeheim put an embargo on three-pointers.

Still, Syracuse struggled. Exasperated, Boeheim—after consecutive losses to UConn and Providence, and an hour and a half of nonstop coach-bashing on one postgame call-in show—benched mercurial swingman Dave Johnson and turned to a more orthodox arrangement. He started Michael Edwards, a 5'11" freshman from Eastern High in Voorhees, N.J., who has the stroke to loosen up a zone. "Everybody was saying we didn't have a true point guard," Edwards says. "It made me mad. Why am I here if I'm not a true point guard?"

Edwards began so many full-court sallies that ended with Thompson, Owens and even power forward Derrick Coleman doing chin-ups on the rim that play had to be stopped midway through the second half so a basket support could be repositioned.

The Hoyas' 7'2" Dikembe Mutombo, Mourning's Zairean sidekick, seemed lost against Syracuse, which rolled up the most points scored against Georgetown in 14 years. But after a meeting with Red Auerbach last summer, Thompson has been using Mutombo and Mourning together, something he rarely did last season.

Where Mutombo is worldly and, in Thompson's phrase, "a jewel," Mourning is still growing up. "People are always comparing Alonzo to what they thought Patrick [ Ewing] was," says Thompson. "Where Patrick was private, Alonzo enjoys an interview, so people say, 'He's so mature.' That's b.s. He's a 19-year-old country boy."

Mourning's fraternization with Rayful Edmond, a D.C. drug dealer convicted on conspiracy charges last December, is one example of Thompson's point. "Alonzo's got to know who Alonzo is," says Thompson. "That's news, him even being seen with someone like that. He's got to realize it. Maturity will come when he knows it."

Yet when the Hoy as need to get a fire lit under Mutombo, Thompson pulls Mourning aside. "Do me a favor," he tells Alonzo. "Get your boy plugged in."

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