"That was the ball game," said Iona Coach Jim Valvano. "It's like going to war and leaving your soldiers at home."
Getting Jeff Ruland, the Gaels' star center, in quick foul trouble was what Georgetown wanted to do yesterday in the ECAC television game of the week at McDonough Arena. In less than three minutes Ruland had three fouls.
"We worked very hard on going in early to get Ruland in foul trouble," Georgetown Coach John Thompson said after the 95-84 Hoya victory. "I didn't think we had anybody who could contain him if he got the ball, so the early passes were geared toward getting inside to him. Even if we threw them away, we threw them inside to get him in foul trouble."
On a snowy, gloomy afternoon when Thompson started Al Dutch at small forward, convinced his reserves -- particularly Jeff Bullis and Mike Hancock -- to play more aggressively and watched his team regain free-throw accuracy, Iona was a disorganized team without the 6-foot-10 center.
Ruland was not the only casualty of this tightly officiated game in which a live crowd of 3,805 and a regional television audience witnessed 59 fouls. Georgetown forward Craig Shelton, like Ruland an All-America candidate, did not get the opportunity to show his stuff. He played only 11 minutes of the first half because of fouls, scoring seven points in the first four minutes.
"I want it understood," Valvano said, "I'm not saying the referees beat us. Georgetown won. I'm saying the referees controlled the game, not the kids. Would we have won? Probably not the way Georgetown, played today. Would it have been a 25-point game in the first half? No way."
It was 7-6, Georgetown, when Ruland collected his third foul, with 17:13 left in the first half. The Gaels could not handle the quicker Hoyas' full-court press. And when they fell behind 29-18, Valvano decided he better switch to man-to-man defense, an Iona weakness.
"They were shooting so well that to stay in a zone would have been foolish," Valvano said afterward.
The Gaels fared no better in man to man. Georgetown averaged two points each for the next 12 possessions and the score was 53-28.
Bullis, Dutch and Hancock did most of the scoring, as Georgetown played aggressively, forcing action, such as the nifty screen Hancock set freeing Bullis for his first collegiate dunk, on a baseline drive.
Said Valvano, "They got it going and it was like a tidal wave. We didn't have our big man in the middle and we were very disoriented."
Iona (8-3) played better man to man in the second half, when the Gaels handled the press early, then cut the margin to nine points twice. But Georgetown's extra free-throw practice on Friday worked, the Hoyas hitting 16 of their last 19 and 33 of 42 for the day.
Georgetown (9-3) had no one to score like Iona guard Kevin Hamilton, who finished with 32 points, hitting 15 of 19 from the field, mainly on perimeter jumpers the sagging Georgetown zone gave him.
But the Hoyas had plenty of balance and depth, guard Eric Floyd and Bullis scoring 17 points each to top seven Hoyas with seven points or more.
The most significant move was the switch from Eric Smith to Dutch at small forward, a move Thompson said he made because the opposition has been sagging zones on Shelton and because he feels Dutch is a better shooter. Dutch scored 16 points and Smith, playing extensively as Georgetown ran out the clock, had 12, including 10 to 12 from the foul line.
This was Georgetown's most aggressive and impressive effort since a seven-point loss at Indiana last month. By forcing action, the Hoyas ended up with easy shots, helping account for 62 percent field-goal accuracy. Thompson said he had chewed out the reserves "to not play like a bench."
"I wouldn't call it a chewing out. It was more like a little lecture," said Bullis. "We have to create things, not come in and play dumb. It worked well. He was right. You're coming in and being too mistake-oriented, because you want all the playing time you can get. I threw caution to the wind."
And, because his players were exhibiting confidence on the court, Thompson also called quick timeouts and yelled at them in an effort to fight lackadaisical play in the second half. "We were laying back, waiting for them to do something," said point guard John Duren. "When you get the lead, you tend to get cautious."