Georgetown, benefiting from a school-record 53 free throws, broke away from San Diego State at the start of the second half and defeated the Aztecs, 71-53, yesterday in its first home-away-from-home game at the Capital Centre.
A crowd of 8,503, a figure that equaled Athletic Director Frank Rienzo's expectations -- "if we double our home attendance (at McDonough Arena), we're doing good" -- watched the Hoyas press and run in a 20-2 spree that gave them a 46-26 lead with 15 minutes to play.
San Diego State was called for 37 personal fouls, against Georgetown's 14, and Aztec Coach Dave Gaines said, "You expect to get shafted on the road, but not like this. They took us out of our defensive game . . . If you're going to call fouls, call them both ways. They were calling fouls for getting close."
Georgetown's 53 free throws broke the school record of 48 set against American University in 1965. The Hoyas missed 22 free throws, including the front end of seven bonus sets.
Guard Eric (Sleepy) Floyd led Georgetown (3-2) with 21 points, his highest this season. Guard Zack Jones, who attended Theodore Roosevelt High School here, led San Diego State (2-2) with 14 points.
Only in the five-minute span at the start of the second half was the Georgetown offense as intimidating as its defense, which kept the Aztecs shooting from downtown San Diego most of the game. "Patrick Ewing was intimidating," said Michael Cage, the Aztecs' 6-foot-10 forward who finished third among major college rebounders last season.
Cage said he was forced to change the trajectory of his shots at least twice. On San Diego State's third possession, guard Keith Smith decided to test the 7-foot freshman. Smith, trying to avoid Ewing's long arms, looped his shot so much that it hit the top of the backboard. Twice in the next three possessions, Ewing rejected Aztec shots. He had four blocked shots, 11 points and six rebounds for the day.
But, as well as Ewing has meshed into the defense, the Hoyas still are playing their set offense as if they're learning to ride a bicycle with training wheels -- and are afraid they'll fall off. They managed a 26-24 halftime lead, but had one more turnover (nine) than baskets.
"We were taking our shots a little too quickly," said Floyd, who missed eight of 17 free throws but made up for it with seven rebounds, four steals, two blocked shots and two assists. "We started setting screens in the second half, and our shot selection became easier."
In that 20-2 stretch, accomplished in just 12 possessions, the Hoyas took advantage of a better-executed offense, the faster pace of play and seven Aztec turnovers. Floyd started it with a layup off a steal, then Mike Hancock and Eric Smith hit successive medium-range jumpers off screens.
A timeout did not help the Aztecs, who committed four turnovers in their next five possessions. Georgetown converted all but one of them into points. When Hancock made a jump shot with 15:23 remaining, it was 46-26.
With all the free throws, Georgetown took only 16 shots the second half and made 12.
If the Hoyas want to reach the expectations of their fans and the polls, which included one ranking as the preseason favorite to win the NCAA championship, Ewing will have to become much more involved in the offense. He has taken only 33 shots and has one assist in Georgetown's first five games.
"If we want to be a 20-game winner, we don't have to go to him," said Coach John Thompson. "If we want to win seriously, we've got to go to him . . . How can we do it without Ewing-ing the other kids to death? They've responded well so far, and it's something I've got to be patient with.
"We've been throwing balls at the basket and standing around out there without getting motion. We've got to get the coordination and the movement. It's difficult playing with someone his size. You've got to become accustomed to it. I remember the frustrations I went through when I was playing at Providence . . . and that takes work. It's not something that will happen in three games."
"We have to get the ball to him in scoring position," said Floyd. "He's a good passer, and when there are two or three guys on him, he can hit you when you move to the open spot."