Tonight, there was only a tad of a struggle for Georgetown.
The Hoyas defeated Connecticut, the conference commonfolk, 77-60, in a Big East game before 14,454 at Hartford Civic Center.
For the Hoyas (17-6, 7-3), who seemingly run a holding pattern over the nation's No. 14 ranking, victory came because David Wingate (seven for 11 from the field), Patrick Ewing and Michael Jackson all scored 15 points.
Further, victory came to the Hoyas because their 2-3 zone defense forced the Huskies into 23 turnovers. Still further, victory came because forward Bill Martin, playing more fiercely than in recent times, got a season-high 13 rebounds and because reserve junior guard Gene Smith came on to provide 33 minutes of court cool, playing at his standard relentless pace.
Finally, victory came to the Hoyas tonight because once Connnecticut (9-12, 2-8) rallied from an eight-point halftime deficit within 49-46 with 10:31 remaining, Martin, Ewing and Smith led a 7-0 streak that improved the Georgetown lead to 56-46 with 9:12 left.
Now, the Hoyas are tied for third in the Big East with Boston College (7-3). Lying not all that far in the Big East distance are Villanova and St. John's, both 9-2.
However, the crystal ball begins to cloud for the Hoyas. Their struggle is about to intensify. Fred Brown, the junior guard with a monopoly on Georgetown's court experience, did not make the trip here because his strained right knee is too sore. He strained the patella tendon in his knee Wednesday against St. John's.
And late tonight, Georgetown Coach John Thompson sang out this forlorn forecast: "We'll be lucky to have Freddie back by the tournament. It's important to take our time with him, not to rush him back."
Sophomore Anthony Jones (11 points) started at forward and Wingate moved over to guard, recreating Georgetown's starting lineup at the start of this season.
"The games we've lost this season we've had problems with impatience on our half-court offense," Thompson said. "We haven't been taking bad shots--we've just been making bad passes. We're trying to show more patience, trying to involve Patrick in the game more."
Herein, the value of Brown. He, better than any other Hoya, is the glue to composure, the man who gets the ball in to Ewing in the half-court offense.
"We definitely will miss his experience. In our huddle before the game tonight, we talked about how we knew we had to come together, things Fred always tells us," said Smith. "Fred's a master at that stuff."
The Hoyas led, 35-27, at halftime as their zone defense forced Connecticut to shoot from afar--too far. Connecticut shot 32 percent in the first half.
Wingate made five of seven shots for 11 first-half points. Although Ewing got his third foul with the Hoyas leading, 26-15, with 3:44 left in the half, his inside movement caused Connecticut center Bruce Kuczenski and forward Larry Blucher to pick up three fouls each.
"Some questionable calls, I thought," said Kuczenski, humming the Hoyas' 1983 theme song.
At the start of the second half, though, Connecticut followed the lead of bombs-away freshman guard Earl Kelley (16 points). The Huskies outran the Hoyas, scoring off the transition, easily beating Georgetown's press. Georgetown's lead shrank to 49-46 with 10:31 left when the most crucial streak took place.
Martin began it with a short jumper, improving the lead to 51-46. Wingate made a steal and threw deep downcourt to Smith, who fed Ewing for a spinning layup that made it 53-46 with 9:26 left.
Then, Ewing took a charge. When the Connecticut bench was assessed a technical for arguing the call, Jackson made one of two foul shots.
Then Jackson fed Ewing. His vicious slam followed and the Hoyas were at 56-46 with nine minutes left and Connecticut was on the way to its 10th loss in 12 games. Game, set, match.