Georgetown Coach John Thompson, reflecting on two crucial plays in the final seconds of Monday's night 63-62 loss to North Carolina for the NCAA basketball championship, said today he would use the same strategy again.
Thompson was referring to 1) ordering his team into a 1-3-1 zone rather than a man-to-man defense before Michael Jordan made the game-winning basket with 15 seconds left and 2) not calling his final timeout after that basket to set up a play.
Georgetown had taken a 62-61 lead on Eric Floyd's jump shot from just inside the foul line with 57 seconds left. With the Hoyas collapsing inside on all-Americas James Worthy, who had scored 28 points and was named the tournament's outstanding player, and Sam Perkins, the Tar Heels went to Jordan. The freshman guard/forward made the shot.
Of the 1-3-1 zone defense, a staple of Georgetown's this season, Thompson said, "Worthy had hurt us too bad. Who could we have put on him in a one-on-one situation? We played a man on the ball out front and everyone else played zone. With both Worthy and Perkins down low, you need a lot of help.
"We felt they would go to Worthy in that situation and they would have if we were in a different defense. Jordan is a great shooter, even with a hand in his face. Smitty (Eric Smith) and (Ed) Spriggs ran over but he got the shot off."
Rather than call a timeout, the Hoyas hustled upcourt.
"We didn't want to call a timeout," Thompson said. "That's the only time you know Carolina will be in man to man, and I didn't want them in a zone. By calling a timeout, they would've had time to set up their defense. We thought we were in a great situation, Worthy just made a great play."
Hoya point guard Fred Brown quickly looked for Floyd, who was running along the base line. But Tar Heels overplayed Floyd, so Brown looked inside, first to Patrick Ewing, who had 23 points and 11 rebounds, then to Smith. Brown said he thought he saw Smith break free and let the pass go. Worthy was the next most surprised person among the almost 62,000 in the Superdome when the ball hit him square in the chest.
"It wasn't Eric," a dejected Brown said afterward. "My peripheral vision is pretty good, but this time it failed me."
"He (Worthy) was just where we wanted him," Thompson said. "He was following Smith and went back the other way. But the ball went right to him. He was definitely in the wrong place."
Thompson said he called Georgetown's final timeout before Worthy attempted a two-shot intentional foul with two seconds left because, "I just wanted to instruct them what to do in case he missed. There just wasn't much we could do."
Worthy missed both free throws. Georgetown controled the rebound and got the ball to Floyd about five feet from midcourt, where his desperation 50-footer fell far short. Unlike the pros--where the ball in is inbounded at midcourt following a timeout in any part of the back court -college players inbound the ball as close as possible to where the ball is when the timeout is called. In this case, it would have been under the basket.
Despite the loss, Thompson was in a talkative, pleasant mood.
"It's tough to come this far and lose," he said. "But if you don't recover quickly in this business you won't be able to move forward again. You certainly can call North Carolina nationa champions, but you can't call us losers."
The biggest question was whether Georgetown can come this far again next year.
"I told the kids people can takl that next year stuff all they want, we wnated to win now," Thompson said. "Any little thing can prevent you from coming back. We are losing five seniors; four of them were regulars."
Georgetown loses Floyd, the top scorer in the school's history; Smith, the most flexible player on the team; reserve center/forward Ed Spriggs, called by Thompson one of the smartest players he's coached; starting forward Mike Hancock and seldom-used reserve Ron Blaylock.
Thompson was asked if this team deserved its high preseason rankings, including the top spot in one publication.
"At the time, I thought they were crazy to pick us No. 1. I thought we had fewshmen who would be unpredictable and seniors coming off a so-so season. . .just never thought we would come within a few seconds of the national championship."
Thompson said Ewing most definitely would return next year and he, along with Brown, Anthony Jones, William Martin, Gene Smith and Ralph Dalton, who is recovering from knee surgery, would form the nucleus of the team.
"I told Anthony and Billy they would have to play a major role next year," Thompson said. "I told them, 'You can't just blend in next year, you have to carry more weight. The bad thing about the NCAA (tournament) is that it puts you behind. We would like to have a big man, even if Dalton in 100 percent, a shooting guard and a point guard."
Thompson may be close to filling two of those holes. Two highly recruited players are said to have Georgetown at the top of their lists; South Lakes' all-Met guard Michael Jackson and Baltimore Dunbar guard/forward David Wingate.
After receiving criticism for staying 90 miles away in Biloxi, Miss., Thompson today moved his players to downtown New Orleans. They plan to return home Thursday.