Before Georgetown faced Connecticut last night in McDonough Arena, the tallest man on the court and the shortest shook hands and smiled at one another. Hoya freshman Pat Ewing and Huskie sophomore Karl Hobbs--one seven feet tall and the other 5-foot-8--were high school teammates and best buddies back in Cambridge, Mass.
To look at them, Hobbs' face barely above Ewing's waist, few would have guessed that the shrimp, not the giant, would dominate the game and bring Connecticut a clean, decisive 63-52 victory over the highly ranked Hoyas in a Big East Conference game.
Since the first organized game was played--91 years ago on Jan. 20, 1891--basketball has been a big man's game and let the little fellow beware.
But not this evening, not on a night when a normal-sized fellow had his hour.
From first minute to last, the tiny Hobbs bamboozled the Hoyas' pressure defenses and directed a patient delay offense, scoring eight points and finishing with eight assists to the Huskies' huge front line.
"Karl controled the whole game," said a beaming Dom Perno, coach of Connecticut (11-3, 3-2 in the Big East).
"Hobbs presents a special problem for us," said GU Coach John Thompson, looking down from his full 6-foot-10. "He is much too small."
"Patrick and I are good friends," said Hobbs. "It's a shame that my success depends on his failure. I told him before the game that he could control a game defensively, but not while I was controlling it offensively."
When Hobbs wasn't making steals and passing for breakaway layups, he was exhausting Eric (Sleepy) Floyd, who had to chase him hither and yon and ended up with only 10 points. When Hobbs wasn't making his huge teammates happy--passing to 6-foot-11, 257-pound Chuck Aleksinas (12 points), 6-8, 240-pound Corny Thompson (16), 6-5 Norm Bailey (12) and 6-5 Mike McKay (11), he was directing a gorgeously effective stall in the last 10 minutes.
Connecticut hurt the Hoyas badly at the foul line, making 16 of 19 foul shots in the final seven minutes. In the last 10 minutes, all of the Huskies' points came on those 16 free throws and two goaltending calls against Ewing.
As far as Georgetown was concerned, life in the vicinity of Hobbs was nasty, brutish and short.
GU (14-4, 3-2 in the Big East) is ranked 13th by the Associated Press and 11th by United Press International, but has lost two straight games since winning 13 in a row. The Hoyas shot only 43 percent from the floor and, in their home gym, where they had not lost in a year and a day, they attempted only 12 foul shots to their foes' 33.
"This is no time for us to panic. There won't be any lineup changes or stuff like that," said Thompson. "We're not ready to sweep up the rug and quit.
"Connecticut's a good team with the biggest front line we'll face all year. But what hurt us was poor shooting, the ball just not going down the hole," added Thompson, whose only confident shooter was freshman Anthony Jones (a team-high 13 points).
"Some players, including Patrick (who scored eight points and fouled out), seemed a little tentative. Maybe I've been giving him too much guidance. He might be trying too hard to please me. Earlier, he was getting criticized for getting in fights, but we were winning. Maybe I've homogenized him."