There was almost a bushwhacking tonight, right here in Red Towel Territory.
But Georgetown (5-0) survived the scare and defeated Western Kentucky, 70-66, in overtime to win the championship of the third annual Wendy's Classic before 10,400 in E.A. Diddle Arena.
Patrick Ewing scored a career-high 30 points and won the tournament's most valuable player award. "I was able to accomplish what I wanted to do," Ewing said, after becoming the first Hoya to score 30 points in a game since Eric (Sleepy) Floyd in the 1980 NCAA East Regional.
But the focus tonight was not so much on Ewing. Rather, it was on the near miraculous comeback made by the Hilltoppers.
Western Kentucky (3-1) trailed by 17 points, 36-19, with 18:22 left in regulation. Hilltoppers forward Tony Wilson scored 16 of his team-high 25 points in the second half, his 20-foot shot from the left base making it 60-60 with 16 seconds left.
After Georgetown freshman guard Michael Jackson missed an open 10-footer with 10 seconds left, Western Kentucky called timeout. But guard Bobby Jones' half-court heave was far short.
The teams exchanged baskets and leads for much of the five-minute overtime. When freshman David Wingate sank a 12-footer from the left side with 1:05 left in the overtime, the Hoyas had a 67-66 lead. This was the lead that the Hoyas, off to their best start since the 1978-79 season, when they went 7-0, would not surrender.
Both teams then missed shots, the difference being that the Hoyas rebounded their miss. Jackson was fouled intentionally and, with 10 seconds to play, made the first free throw for a 68-66 lead.
When Jackson missed his second free throw, Ewing rebounded the ball and gently banked it in.
That Georgetown committed many of its 20 turnovers in those crucial moments near the end of regulation did not bother Coach John Thompson. Wingate, who lost the ball five times, and Jackson (six), the two starting freshmen guards who had played like veterans in the first four victories, made several mistakes at the end of regulation.
"It is important," Thompson said, after his team won a game by less than 21 points for the first time this season, "for the freshmen to make mistakes now. They didn't drag after they made them, though. They played on."
Certainly, they did. Wingate kept on shooting--and making--shots in the clutch. "David can miss 100 shots and think something's wrong with the ball," Thompson said. "He has no conscience."
Ewing got 16 points and eight rebounds (he had 10 in all) in the first half, when the Hoyas built a 32-17 lead. He also made 13 of 17 shots in the game.
"And at the Final Four last year," Western Kentucky Coach Clem Haskins said, "they said Patrick Ewing couldn't score."
But the Hilltoppers' Tony Wilson kept gunning away in the second half, from the baseline, from the left, the right. "He is clutch," Haskins said. "We kept looking for him."
The crowd figured in this game, too. So many voices, so many red towels. "In the wall of noise," Thompson said, "I think we kept our poise."
Ewing said, "We tried to get the crowd out of it, but we couldn't."
Five minutes into the game, Ewing exchanged a slight shove and angry glares with Western Kentucky center Percy White, formerly of De Matha High. Referees removed both players for a short cooling off. Less than a minute later, Ewing was back, on fire.
"I want to thank Percy White for banging Patrick tonight," Thompson said with a smile.