Sometimes, a basketball team gets so desperate, so depressed, so darn confused that the coach has no idea what to try next. All reasonable plans have been exhausted. It's time to resort to nonsense.
And, for no reason that anyone can deduce, it works.
That's what happened to Georgetown. The Hoyas blew the doors off Big East leader Villanova, 72-56, last night before 11,553 fans at Capital Centre.
A fortnight ago, GU was nationally ranked. Entering their game with the 20th-ranked Wildcats, the Hoyas were just in danger of being nationally rank.
On Sunday, GU Coach John Thompson, the memory of a vintage stinker against Providence still strong, sat his team down on their McDonough court.
"I'd tried everything. You start to get pretty spooked by it," said Thompson whose club had lost three Big East games in a row in six days. "I had each player in turn say something positive about the team.
"Then, we watched films. Not of Villanova but of ourselves when we beat St. John's (by 30 points). I said, 'There, that's the way we used to look.' "
Georgetown was a reasonable facsimile of those Hurryin' Hoyas for much of this crowd-pleasing victory over Villanova, forcing the Philadelphians into 23 turnovers with end-to-end pressure. When Eric Floyd and Eric Smith--18 and 17 points--weren't twisting in the lane for layups, then 7-foot Patrick Ewing was intimidating the inside game of big men John Pinone and Ed Pinckney.
GU opened the game with a 10-2 spurt that had Villanova Coach Rollie Massimino calling for time after just 101 seconds. Then, after leading only 23-20 at intermission, the Hoyas hit the Wildcats with what Massimino called "their onslaught" as GU scored 39 points in its first 25 possessions of the second half.
"Their defense, especially Ewing, distorted us . . . the crowd was upon us . . . they'd get the ball in the transition game and be gone . . . and the game just got out of hand," said Massimino, whose team fell behind, 71-51.
Lest this all sound too simple, too Thompson-planned, let it be noted that, for one incredibly atrocious 11-minute stretch of the first half, the Hoyas played even more disgracefully than in any of their losses. In a span of 21 possessions, they managed one field goal and were outscored, 14-2; in that interlude of bad passes, lost poise, concrete hands and forced shots, the Hoyas commited every basketball mistake known to man.
Thompson became so angered that he benched his speedy men and went with a huge lineup of two small forwards at guard, two big forwards at forward and Ewing. However, at half, Thompson relented and gave "our tall, skinny guys" one last chance to prove they could terrify an opponent with pressure defense and not embarrass themselves against a 2-3 zone defense.
It worked so well that when Floyd became the first Hoya to score 2,000 points, Thompson screamed at the official, "Don't stop the game (to award the ball to Floyd). Make 'em play." And, in fact, the Hoyas--still in their harrowing press after baskets--stole the inbounds pass for one of nine times in the game. Only after the theft did GU call time to celebrate.
"I don't know why we did what we did tonight. I wish I could tell you. I've pulled out everything . . .Sometimes things happen for no reason," said Thompson, whose team (15-5, 4-2) has dropped from No. 7 out of the top 20. Villanova still leads the league at 6-2. "I was doing too much counseling and not enough coaching. I told 'em, 'Let's win some games now and talk about life during the summer.'
"For the last few games, we've been playing against two teams," concluded Thompson, "them and us."
Last night, the Hoyas, who shot 65 percent in the second half, only played against one team--a quality 13-4 Villanova squad that was supposed to be one of the better teams in the country. The Wildcats were left with their tongues hanging out and their composure shattered.
The big, delighted crowd was no doubt exhilarated by the Hoyas' acrobatic second-half play--full of fancy-dan shots and amazing Ewing rejections. But the fans also had reason to be perplexed.
This night gave no real answer to the central Hoya question of '82: which of the two faces of Georgetown is real?