Eric Smith moved to point guard from small forward and rescued a sputtering Georgetown offense yesterday, directing the Hoyas to their fourth straight victory, 75-63, over American at Capital Centre.
The regular Hoya point guard, Fred Brown, had a miserable day, playing a total of 12 minutes before fouling out in the second half. He didn't take a shot and had only one assist and one rebound.
With Gene Smith still sidelined with a broken foot, Georgetown Coach John Thompson turned to Eric Smith as his playmaker. The 6-foot-5 senior swing man from Churchill High School responded with 15 points, six steals and an assist, and ran the offense just the way Thompson wanted.
He was particularly effective in getting the ball to 7-foot freshman center Patrick Ewing, who had his best game of the season against good competition. Ewing made eight of 12 shots, scored 20 points and had season highs in rebounds (13), assists (5) and blocked shots (7). Teammate Eric (Sleepy) Floyd had a team-high 24 points as the Hoyas improved to 5-2. The Eagles are 3-2.
Ewing got most of his points off lob passes that he either caught and dunked or redirected into the basket. Lobbing the ball was practically the only way the Hoyas could get it to Ewing in close, because American double-teamed him with a tight zone. Ewing moved outside late in the game and hit two straight turnaround jumpers.
"We still haven't gotten accustomed to him (Ewing) yet," said Thompson. "I was glad to see him hit those jump shots though, because some people were starting to think all he could do was dunk. That's all right, though, because we aren't trying to demonstrate variety, we want the highest percentage shot."
It looked early as if the Hoyas were going to run away from the Eagles before 8,494 spectators, who seemed divided about equally between Hoya and Eagle fans.
Georgetown moved to a 32-21 lead with six minutes left in the first half and appeared in control. The Hoyas led by seven at the half, but American, which doesn't have a player taller than 6-8, outscored the Hoyas, 7-1, to start the second half and trailed, 35-34. Mark Nickens, who led the Eagles with 24 points, had five of the seven points in the rally.
Then the Hoyas became aggressive, and the Eagles couldn't keep up. The Hoyas were ahead, 42-40, when they scored 10 straight points to lead, 52-40, with 9:15 to play. Ewing and Floyd each had four points in the rally. Smith made sure they got the ball where they wanted it and also keyed the defense.
While Georgetown moved ahead, American turned over the ball seven straight times, three by guard Ed Sloane. He went into the game averaging 17.2 points and shooting 51 percent. He went two for 16 today and had nine of American's 24 turnovers.
"Against great teams like Georgetown, you have to run your offense and be patient, and we just weren't all of the time, but I'm still really proud of our kids. I couldn't ask them to play any harder," said American Coach Gary Williams.
"When the score got knocked down, we just weren't attacking," said Thompson. "It seemed like we were just trying to avoid their defense. We settled down, though. We still have a very long way to go yet. We still aren't smooth. We're trying to get a feel for ourselves and a team identity."
Thompson also only used eight players today, the fewest in a game this season. Freshman William Martin, his team's high scorer with 21 against St. Leo Wednesday, didn't get off the bench today.
"It was just the type of game it was," said Thompson, explaining why he didn't use Martin. "We played this game to win, not for experience. I stayed with people longer today than at any time this season and only made substitutions when people got tired."