Patrick Ewing played over the heads of the smaller Connecticut Huskies yesterday to lead Georgetown to a 74-53 Big East victory before 8,665 at Capital Centre. The 7-foot center had a career-high 17 rebounds to complement 25 points.
In the first 20 minutes, the Hoyas (2-1, 11-4) had problems staying with UConn's three guards, Karl Hobbs (eight points), Earl Kelley (16) and Vern Giscombe (four), all under 6-foot-1. The score at halftime was 33-33.
However, the game was no contest in the second half.
The Hoyas switched from a man-to-man defense to a zone, preventing the Huskies guards from driving and getting uncontested medium-range jump shots.
Ewing took advantage of UConn's inexperienced front line and sank six of seven from the field, all either dunks or short bank shots.
UConn opened the second half with a basket by 6-10 Bruce Kuczenski for a short-lived 35-33 lead. Bill Martin (14 points, five rebounds) tied the game on a 10-footer and Michael Jackson put the Hoyas ahead to stay with two free throws with 19:19 to play.
Ewing scored six of his team's next 10 points, two of the baskets on dunks, as the Hoyas' advantage became 47-41 with 14:23 left.
Asked about Ewing's dunks off lob passes in the first minutes of the second half, Hoyas Coach John Thompson said, "I've changed my mind about alley-oop. It got the crowd involved in the game. We'll be working on it from now on."
"We started to run more, push the ball up quicker," said Ewing, who also had three blocked shots. "We started getting shots inside. It may have looked easy but it wasn't."
To most fans, many of whom came with portable TV sets and cheered during the Washington Redskins' 21-7 victory over the Minnesota Vikings, the Hoyas seemed to be having an easy time.
Kelley, the highly praised freshman who averaged 39.4 points last year, managed only two field goals in the second half, both baskets being the only points UConn scored during a 13-4 Hoyas' blitz that gave them a 64-46 lead with 6:45 remaining.
"We went to that zone to stop those little guys from penetrating," said Thompson. "They're quick and matchups were a problem for us in the first half.
"Dom (Perno, UConn coach) is in a tough position. He has a young team and he lost his best player (Norman Bailey, academically ineligible). I was a little worried because his kids know they have nothing to lose," said Thompson.
Perno said he used his small lineup mainly because the three guards are his best shooters.
"It's a gamble," he said. "You give up something (rebounding) to try to get something (scoring). We hung with them in the first half but their overall strength wore us down.
"Our shots fell in the first half, the second half they didn't. But give Ewing some credit, too."
UConn, which lost its fourth straight game and fell to 1-2 in the Big East and 7-6 overall, traded baskets with Georgetown throughout the first half. There were 12 ties and 10 lead changes.
Kelley used his quickness and ability to score 11 points and Kuczenski and 6-6 freshman Eddie Williams each had eight points against a relaxed Hoyas' man-to-man defense.
"They were clearing out one side and taking us one on one," said Jackson, who didn't score and fouled out. Jackson was the conference rookie of the week after scoring 31 points in Georgetown's 97-92 win at Syracuse.
While Jackson and David Wingate were scoreless in the first half, Ewing, with 12 points and Martin with eight, kept the Hoyas in the game.
In addition to Ewing, Gene Smith (nine points, seven assists) and Ralph Dalton (five points, four rebounds) were crucial to the Hoyas' strong second half.
During a six-minute stretch that saw Georgetown outscore UConn, 21-8, Smith stole a ball from the sure-handed Hobbs, raced downcourt and passed off to Ewing who dunked over two defenders.
Seconds later, Smith dashed in for a three-point play after forcing a turnover by Kelley at midcourt. Dalton scored after a nice feed from Wingate, who had picked off an errant UConn pass.
By that time, Connecticut guards were worn down and the Hoyas front line had control of the game.
About his team's up-and-down performances this season, Thompson said, "The kids know what I want done. They may be thinking too much on the court. I have probably caused some tenseness."