Every excellent young basketball team needs a genuinely sobering experience once in a while.
The Georgetown Hoyas got theirs tonight, escaping from Seton Hall's nearly snow-bound Walsh Auditorium with a 62-60 victory.
The Hoyas broke a 60-60 tie with 1:01 to play when guard Fred Brown rebounded Eric (Sleepy) Floyd's missed shot and passed the ball back to the senior guard, who sank a 15-footer for what proved to be the winning basket.
Seton Hall, after a timeout, played for the last shot. But guard Danny Callandrillo, who led all scorers with 23 points, missed a forced 20-foot jumper at the buzzer that would have produced overtime.
"Callandrillo might be my favorite player in the Big East," said Georgetown Coach John Thompson, with a deadpan expression. "But I wasn't worried about the last shot. Callandrillo can only make 'em to win games. He doesn't make 'em to tie."
In Seton Hall's 9-3 season, Callandrillo has won three games with jumpers at the buzzer.
Georgetown never led by more than six points in this seesaw affair that started 25 minutes late because two of the three referees were delayed by a blizzard.
That was good luck for Seton Hall. Callandrillo, caught driving in the snow for nearly 2 1/2 hours, did not get to the gym until 15 minutes after the game was to begin.
Told, minutes before 8 o'clock, that Callandrillo was nowhere in sight, Thompson agreed to wait for him.
Later, he probably regretted that. Callandrillo's shooting, passing and leadership in Seton Hall's deliberate attack were the heart of a near upset.
This was, in all respects, a lucky night for the Hoyas. Not only did they win while shooting 44 percent, they caught Seton Hall on a night when it had two disadvantages. A third of the Pirates' sellout crowd was kept away by the storm and their leading rebounder, Mike Ingram, was kept out of the game by an injury.
Perhaps just as important as Georgetown's 13th consecutive victory was the way the Hoyas (14-2) learned something important about Patrick Ewing. And what Ewing may have learned about himself. Nothing holds more terror for a young 7-footer than shooting free throws at the end of a desperately close game."Am I a good pressure free-throw shooter?" said Ewing. "I don't really know. Until this game, I never shot any."
In the last three minutes, Ewing twice went to the line for one-and-ones. He went four for four, turning a 58-56 deficit into a 60-58 lead.
"It felt very nice," Ewing said with a grin. "In high school, we really never had what you could call a close game. And we haven't had one this year where I had to shoot free throws."
"He shot 'em like a senior," said Floyd, who led the Hoyas with 19 points. "He's an honorary senior."
"Champions know how to win, and Patrick is a champion," said Thompson.
If Thompson's players hadn't believed his constant protestations that they must improve before tournament time, then they'll believe him now.
"The only good thing I can say about this game is that we won," said Thompson. "We are a far, far better team than we showed tonight. At least I hope we are. If we have to improve as much as somebody'd think if they only saw us tonight, then we'd be in a lot of trouble."