This one was shocking, nearly.
The victim of Georgetown's finest performance of the season was not conference poor folk like Seton Hall or Connecticut. This was No. 4 Villanova, the first-place team in the Big East.
The final yesterday was Georgetown 87, Villanova 71, before 16,770 at Capital Centre. But don't be confused by the score. It really wasn't that close.
"The storm just mounted and mounted," said Villanova Coach Rollie Massimino, whose Wildcats (21-6, 12-4 in the Big East) needed a victory to win their second straight Big East regular-season title.
The Wildcats, of course, did not get that victory, so the regular-season title went to Boston College, which defeated Providence, 81-66, last night. Instead, Villanova's players got reduced to mere simpletons by Georgetown's defense.
The Hoyas' full-court press and extinguishing half-court zone and man-to-man defenses caused Villanova to commit a season-high 28 turnovers, created a 62-41 Georgetown lead with 10 minutes still left to play, held center John Pinone to just 12 points and without a rebound and drilled distress for 40 minutes into Villanova's worst defeat of the year.
There were so many offensive strengths for the No. 16 Hoyas (20-8, 10-5). Center Patrick Ewing produced the standard 21 points and 15 rebounds; forward David Wingate scored 15 points; guard Gene Smith scored 15 points, passed magnificently and twice dove, with defensive eyes flaring, into the Georgetown bench--once knocking over a bucket of ice, once knocking over four teammates.
But when Georgetown Coach John Thompson walked into the press room, he put his arm around yet another Hoya and said, like a proud father, "Anthony decided to show up today."
After a season in the valley, sophomore forward Anthony Jones reached a peak. He scored 15 points and grabbed eight rebounds as the man most responsible for kicking down the rock that caused the Hoya avalanche.
"Earlier in the year, I was worrying about doing things wrong. Now I feel good, like I did in high school. I know I can play this game," Jones said.
Georgetown led, 32-28, at halftime mostly because its defense denied Pinone the ball by dropping back the weak-side guard to double-team the 6-foot-8, 230-pound center. When Villanova forward Ed Pinckney (10 points, five rebounds) touched the ball, he either missed his shot, traveled or had his shot blocked by Ewing.
During one first-half stretch, the Hoyas held Villanova without a point for 4 1/2 minutes. At a later point, Jones led a 10-3 streak that gave the Hoyas a 26-22 lead with 4:22 left in the half.
The lead swelled early in the second half, though the Hoyas continued to have problems dealing with a full-court press (they committed 22 turnovers). Then with 9:56 left, Hoyas leading by 13, Pinckney fouled out. He is the sleek 6-9 forward who had 27 points and 22 rebounds, both career highs, in the Wildcats' 68-67 victory over Georgetown at the Palestra Jan. 31.
With seven minutes remaining in yesterday's game, the Hoyas leading by 17 points, Pinone fouled out. One minute later, Massimino took out senior guard Stewart Granger, a sad three for 10 from the field. As Massimino twisted and turned on the bench, bemoaning his cruel luck, his reserves finished off the nightmare.
So finally, the Hoyas played a game in which they mounted a lead and managed to avoid a dismount. "We lost some ball games where we couldn't close," said Thompson. "We lost to Villanova in Philadelphia because we couldn't close. We lost to Pittsburgh because we couldn't close, we lost (Wednesday night) to Boston College because we couldn't close . . .
"Maybe some things happened where we might have started believing in ourselves. Maybe we've turned the corner."
Syracuse comes next, Monday night at Capital Centre in the final regular-season game. It seems likely the Hoyas will open the Big East tournament Thursday against the Orangemen.
In his longest, happiest postgame interview session of the year, Thompson added, "There ain't no way they (NCAA) are going to pick 48 teams in the country and tell me that we're not one of the best 48 teams. We may not be in the top 20, but I'll be damned if we aren't in the top 48."