With Bill Russell, professor of pivot play, in the Capital Centre crowd to give him his real first-term freshman grades, Patrick Ewing of Georgetown played, by far, the most spectacular and varied game of his young career last night as the Hoyas humbled Syracuse, 96-79.
During a dazzling 47-18 blitz, in which the Hoyas came from nine points behind to go 20 ahead with 13:13 to play, Ewing outscored the Syracuse team, 19-18, over a 15-minute span.
That, of course, was just in Ewing's spare time, when he wasn't blocking shots (five), deflecting passes, cleaning the boards (13 rebounds) and running up and down the court as if he thought he were a 7-foot point guard. Many a hoop addict in this throng of 13,797 left the Centre with visions of an NCAA tournament showdown between Ewing and Ralph Sampson.
Until last night, even the thought of a comparison might have seemed unfair to Ewing's proper development. However, what he demonstrated for the great Russell, the player with whom he is most frequently compared, was nothing less than the shape of things to come.
For Georgetown, now 19-5 and 8-3 in the Big East, this was its fifth straight one-sided league victory, after a three-game losing streak. Once again, as in so many of the Hoyas' Centre wins--11 in a row this season--a second-half eruption left the foe limp.
If Ewing's 22 points and his ubiquitous presence in every area of the court was the indelible memory from this game, then at least four other Hoyas played genuine vintage games: Eric Floyd, Eric Smith, Gene Smith and Fred Brown.
If all those Erics and Smiths seem like aliases, think how Syracuse felt when all four of those sometime guards, plus Ewing, went into a devastating full-court, man-to-man press in the last 7:43 of the first half, transforming the game with their grand thefts.
Floyd was less stratospheric than Ewing but just as special, getting 27 points on 11-for-14 shooting plus six rebounds and five steals. Floyd's forte was the soaring, broken-field layup with Orangemen trying desperately, but futilely, to draw charges since they had no hope of reaching his running-start elevation for a blocked shot.
The unsung Hoya, 6-5 jack of all trades Eric Smith, who is reminiscent of valuable Steve Martin of past GU teams, played perhaps his maximum game: 15 points, eight assists and seven steals.
However, it was the other half of the unrelated Smith tandem that sparked Georgetown when it was flat. Entering with the Hoyas behind, 33-24, and coming off 11 horridly flat minutes in which they had been outscored, 29-16, Gene Smith suddenly brought fire to the press and terror to Syracuse eyes.
In just 19 minutes, the 6-foot Smith had 10 points, five steals, three rebounds, two assists and Coach John Thompson's blessing on the little fellow who changed the game. "I've been waiting for old Gene," Thompson said of the Mike Riley-style ballhawk who has returned from a broken ankle. "I want to see what we look like with Gene's pressure out front and Patrick's in the back."
Thompson went to his smallest possible lineup, plus Ewing, out of desperation, saying he was "grasping at straws" and "shifting lineups until we found something" and "trying pot luck."
Instead of pot luck, the Hoyas, who still trail 6-2 Connecticutt in the Big East, found a pot of gold.
Entering this game, the Orangemen, now 13-8, 5-4, had beaten the Hoyas in their last three meetings, the latest a 75-70 victory in the Carrier Dome last month. However, by the final minutes this night--after Georgetown's lead had reached 71-51--they were playing merely for pride, trying not to be obliterated.
From Syracuse's perspective, it lost because second-leading scorer Leo Rautins was out (knee) and, after freshman center Andre Hawkins got into foul trouble, the reserves collapsed under pressure. Even 21 points from Erich Santifer and 16 each from Tony Bruin and Ron Payton were small help.
Most, however, will see this as the night Ewing blossomed under Russell's gaze. Russell, whose daughter goes to Georgetown, spoke to the Hoyas after the game and will, according to Thompson, tutor Ewing on "the psychology of blocking shots."
Ewing may have lacked "psychology" last night but didn't do badly otherwise.
Said Ewing, "Everything was going right for me . . . it was my best all-around game . . . I got to use some of the offensive moves that I've had all along, but I haven't used 'cause it always seemed there was a crowd around me."
Last night, he left the crowd behind. Ewing started his eruption with a 10-foot, quick-pop jumper. Then he followed his miss for a layup. Next, he made a twisting, lean-in layup.
That just got him revved. On a lob, Ewing went to 11-foot level for a one-handed, left-handed slam dunk. As if to prove his elevator could go one story higher, on the next possession Ewing went to 12 feet to grab a deliberate off-the-top-of-the-backboard pass and tomahawk in a thunderous dunk.