Defeat brought anger to Georgetown Coach John Thompson late today.
The anger was not so much generated by No. 7 St. John's 76-67 victory over his No. 17 Hoyas in Georgetown's Big East Conference opener before a sellout crowd of 19,591 in Madison Square Garden.
Nor because his Hoyas were within 65-64 with two minutes to play and, after that, lost a battle of free throws against the unbeaten Redmen (13-0, 3-0 in the Big East). Patrick Ewing and David Wingate both missed the front end of one-and-one attempts with the game still in doubt.
Rather, anger came to John Thompson because Ewing, the Hoyas' 7-foot sophomore center, was involved in two first-half scuffles with Kevin Williams, St. John's 6-foot-3 guard, once throwing punches, once restrained by intervening players before he got the chance.
Georgetown guard Fred Brown said, "I don't think they (the scuffles) took anything out of us," but St. John's and the scoreboard noted otherwise.
"I will tell you one thing and I want you to hear me very clearly," Thompson said in a postgame press conference after the Hoyas fell to 9-4. "I will tell (Ewing) to go hardship if he's going to be held, pushed and mauled like he was today . . . I don't think it's worth it for him to stay in college and take that for four years because he's not going to develop as a player.
"(Referees) are setting a double standard of how you can cover a post man and cover players on the perimeter. They are allowing the post man (center) to be held. I have seen this all season, not just today."
Though the media pried and pried, Thompson would not allow Ewing to speak about the scuffles. Ewing, who scored 13 points and grabbed 14 rebounds, simply said, "We'll see what happens when they come down to D.C."
St. John's trailed, 8-0, nearly five minutes into the game. Redmen players said they feared a replay of last season's 72-42 Georgetown victory at the Garden.
But the Redmen rallied behind Chris Mullin's 24 points and Billy Goodwin's 20 points. Michael Jackson, a freshman guard, led the Hoyas with 20.
The Hoyas led, 13-9, with 8:51 left in the half after Ewing made a four-footer in the lane. As Ewing launched his shot, Williams aggressively brushed against him and fell to the ground. Ewing then pointed a finger of accusation at Williams, who smiled innocently.
On Georgetown's next possession, Williams again bumped Ewing under the basket. Duly infuriated, Ewing grabbed the front of Williams' jersey. Williams shoved Ewing away. Ewing threw several punches, one of them hitting Williams in the mouth.
"He's supposed to be the premier player in the game and he acts like a child," Williams said of Ewing. "I don't have to take that from him or anyone. The only people I'm afraid of are my parents."
Technicals were called on both players; neither was ejected. Through it all, Georgetown still led, 17-15, with 7:01 left in the half. That is when Thompson was called for a technical, arguing a foul called against Brown.
With minimum effort and maximum cool, St. John's forward David Russell made four straight free throws (the first two on a one-and-one, the second pair on the technical) and St. John's led, 19-17.
Georgetown never again had the lead.
Two minutes later, St. John's lead at 25-19, Williams again flagrantly bumped Ewing, before falling to the floor. And Ewing again squared off, but players and both coaches flooded the court. Another technical was called on Williams.
"I was just doing my job," said Williams. "I guess he (Ewing) was frustrated that I was helping out on rebounds, boxing him out."
St. John's Coach Lou Carnesecca said, "I questioned his judgment at times, but Kevin has heart. He's a gutty player."
"When Kevin got going like that, it lit a little fire under us," said Goodwin.
The Hoyas trailed, 31-26, at halftime, after their press stopped befuddling St. John's. The Hoyas looked troubled.
"They stopped us from doing what we do best--our running game," said Fred Brown, who scored six points before fouling out late.
Midway through the second half, the Redmen started missing and the Hoyas running. At last, the Hoyas caught St. John's on David Wingate's spinning eight-footer from the lane, tying the score at 54 with 6:48 left.
Three minutes later, St. John's led, 59-58. Then Mullin hit a 20-footer and Goodwin made a steal and scored on a breakaway slam, giving St. John's a 63-58 lead with 3:21 left.
With 1:23 left, Georgetown was within 65-64. At this point, though, Ewing missed the first of a one-and-one. A bit of frenzy followed, until Mullin was fouled and made two free throws with 38 seconds left, advancing St. John's to a 69-64 lead. Game over.
Afterward, Carnesecca knew how to celebrate the best Redmen start since the 13-0 beginning of the 1930-31 season. "Some shrimp, a little wine, some pasta and just a little more wine," he said. "This is something New Yorkers can be proud of."
Thompson, his anger waning for the moment, said without any intended pun, "Every time we play St. John's, we know it's going to be a war."
When the game ended, Williams, who also fouled out late in the game, did not shake Patrick Ewing's hand. Speaking with a swollen lip, Williams said he instead walked up to Ewing and said, "Sucker, we're No. 1 and we won."