The Missouri coach had anticipated what in fact happened yesterday--that his players would be looking at the basket from the free throw line and seeing saxophones and gorillas, that the Georgetown gentlemen in the stands would be close enough to tweak his Tigers on the nose with those oversized nerf mittens.
"I didn't schedule the game," Norm Stewart snapped when asked for the Tigers' reaction to being caged in McDonough Arena instead of playing Georgetown in a larger, more neutral place with some breathing space. Such as Capital Centre, where an ice show takes precedence over Hoya games. Or an unoccupied chemistry lab.
Stewart arrived in Washington with a chip on his shoulder. One of the few humans capable of crying with a smile on his face, he made a large fuss Friday about not being able to practice in McDonough at his late-afternoon convenience. And it did seem strange that John Thompson would schedule a three-hour workout for 4:30 the day before such a showdown.
"It wouldn't have happened very many places," Stewart said of what he considered Georgetown's gamesmanship. "It shouldn't have happened here." The coach admitted that not working out at all Friday had little effect on the 63-51 loss, but added: "It'll strain relations between Georgetown and Missouri."
Sarcastically, he laughed.
The Georgetown version, offered by Associate Athletic Director Jeff Fogelson, was that Missouri was welcome to use McDonough any time before 4:30 or after 7:30. Others in the athletic department said Stewart refused an offer to make another facility available while the Hoyas were using McDonough.
When Fogelson heard about Stewart's postgame tantrum, he huffed and volunteered the sort of sophisticated sass one would expect from a Hoya on a high: "We're dropping 'em in football."
Even if Georgetown had snapped its spine being gracious, any Missouri workout in McDonough would have been futile unless Stewart had managed to haul half the Washington zoo into the stands or played a cassette spliced with Spike Jones and an early-'60s airport reception for the Beatles. Crowds in the ancient asylum look like 2,500 but sound like 25,000.
Don't they have dens of din in the Big Eight?
"This is louder than Kansas State," said freshman reserve center Greg Cavener. "Completely different than what I thought. Sorta like the high school gym I played in back home." Lest the Hoyas get huffy, his attitude was more gee-whiz than wise-guy.
The teams were awfully rank to be ranked among the top 15 in the country. Georgetown missed 65 percent of its shots, yet still won going away. Missouri dropped its poise somewhere over Toledo.
There was more pressure on the Tigers than the Hoyas. For all that 23-1 glitter before yesterday, a good deal of the basketball world was saying "show me" about Missouri. After the Hoya humbling, Missouri will plummet in the polls, probably much lower than it deserves.
Ironically, NBC was fretting about a slowdown before the game, worried that Stewart was in enough of a snit to sit on the ball and create the first television turnoff among elite teams since everybody stalled against LewCLA. Too slow wasn't any problem at all, it developed.
Too fast was.
The game got out of control in a hurry. It's almost impossible to imagine two teams hustling and running with more zest--and getting less for it. Dizzyball produced a stallball score. Purists cringed at some of the shots Georgetown let fly toward the basket; Missouri's idea of patience was eight passes and an 18-footer.
For awhile early in the game, it seemed as though Pat Ewing had all of a sudden emerged as the next Impossible Force in his sport. Already wonderful on defense and dunks, freshman Ewing unveiled a turnaround jumper against his heralded junior counterpart, Steve Stipanovich.
With 13 1/2 minutes left in the first half, Ewing took a pass with his back about 10 feet from the basket and 10 centimeters from Stipanovich. He turned and sank the fall-away jumper and the foul shot following a futile hack. That was the first of three quick fouls on Stipanovich, who played exactly half the game.
Next time Ewing got the ball, he turned and shot over Stipanovich again. And scored. When something like that starts to flow, a gifted giant hitting inside and outside, grand dreams come true. National championship banners get hoisted in McDonough.
Next time what hit was reality, for Ewing tried a shot only Elvin Hayes in his prime could sink regularly. That or some shoving with Stipanovich, or both, caused Thompson to lasso Ewing to the bench for a few minutes.
The Tigers had appropriate excuses: this was their third game in five days; they have clinched the regular-season conference championship; they were hurrying home to attend services for a former high-school teammate of some Tigers, Marc Alcorn, an LSU player who died of cancer.
For whatever reasons, Stewart seemed to lose interest in the game early. The Hoyas scored on two quick Tiger turnovers and increased a 12-point lead to 16 with 12:49 left in the game, but the coach laughed at the awfulness in front of him instead of calling time.
"I don't like playing in small gyms against big coaches," Stewart had joked earlier in the season.
His mood was grim after the Thompson spanking.
Even on his own campus, Stewart often doesn't get the respect he covets or his record merits. Yesterday, every Tiger flaw was highlighted for every future NCAA opponent to see. Most don't have a Ewing to eliminate layups from the Tiger game plans.
His team's reaction to such a frustrating weekend?
"That's what this game is all about," Stewart said. "How you react to what happens to you."
As Hoya fans discovered after the Boston College blowout earlier in the week, there almost always is another day in big-bucks basketball.