Georgetown's 50-46 victory over Louisville in today's NCAA semifinals was built on a defensive strategy that was vividly demonstrated with just under five minutes left when Patrick Ewing ran 35 feet in a twinkling to cause a panicky turnover.
"John wanted to keep the ball out of Eaves' hands and put constant pressure on the other ballhandlers to make sure the ball didn't go in the middle," said Assistant Coach Bill Stein. He referred to his boss, John Thompson, and Louisville senior guard Jerry Eaves.
"We figured they would take it inside to try to get Pat in foul trouble," Stein said. "So we wanted so much pressure outside on the guards that they couldn't get it in to the guys posting up."
Georgetown's suffocating full-court press needed to produce the 18 turnovers charged to Louisville today, because, for perhaps the first time all season, the Hoyas ran into a team as quick as they are defensively. Georgetown also had 18 turnovers and never was efficient offensively.
Georgetown's modest 43.9 percent shooting was better than Louisville's 39.6, but the Hoyas' 10th straight victory was another in the long line of triumphs scored on defense. Louisville hadn't scored under 50 in its previous 32 games; not under 60 in its last 16.
But in eight of their last nine games, the Hoyas have limited their opponents to under 50 with the kind of remarkable defense that Ewing showed late today.
Georgetown allowed Louisville only one field goal in an eight-minute period. Its 35-34 lead grew to 45-36 in the process, the last two points of the game-turning rally coming after Ewing did what few 7-foot freshmen ever do.
Eaves didn't have the ball. That was part of the Hoyas' defensive game plan. A freshman guard, Milt Wagner, moved with the ball against the press. Not only did Ewing anticipate Wagner's long pass; he also moved the 35 feet to the sideline and leaped high toward the ball.
Ewing missed the interception, but, just as important, he obscured the vision of Louisville's Lancaster Gordon. Instead of catching the ball, Gordon fumbled it out of bounds.
Whether panic had arrived or not, the fact is Louisville scored only two field goals in the next four minutes.
Looking to the national championship game Monday night against North Carolina: Is there a Big East resentment of the Atlantic Coast Conference's splashy reputation?
Georgetown Athletic Director Frank Rienzo chuckled. "The ACC? Isn't that a league somewhere west of the Chesapeake Bay?"