Georgetown Coach John Thompson admitted afterward that he was nervous about this game, his team having lost two straight.
That's what made Arkansas Coach Eddie Sutton fret even more. "I knew we were catching Georgetown at the wrong time," he said.
Sutton's fears were confirmed yesterday at Capital Centre, where second-ranked Georgetown used a 2-3 zone to smother center Joe Kleine and beat Arkansas, 56-39.
Kleine, who averages 22 points, had one basket in 38 minutes. He scored three points, none in the second half.
Kleine said Thompson came over to him after the game to apologize for throwing the zone around him the entire game. "Joe Kleine is an excellent basketball player and I told him that," Thompson said. "This was not reflective at all of his ability."
Kleine's counterpart, Patrick Ewing, got free of the Razorbacks' defense long enough to make seven of eight shots and lead Georgetown with 18 points.
The Hoyas (19-2) also got 14 points from David Wingate, 10 points and 10 rebounds from Bill Martin and 11 rebounds from Reggie Williams. Georgetown built an early lead, partly by shooting 58 percent in the first half, which is quite an accomplishment considering point guard Michael Jackson sat out the game because of a sprained ankle.
The victory calmed Thompson's nervousness. "A lot of my real dear friends told me that losing those two games was the best thing that could have happened to us," he said. "But I had a hard time seeing that.
"The kids didn't want to get in a rut of losing. I was a little nervous about this game because I didn't know what our reaction would be had things gone badly. But they came out and reacted very well. This game was very important for us."
There was no guarantee early that the outcome would be so one-sided. It didn't take long for Ewing to pick up two fouls. One more could have drastically altered everything.
But Ewing went through the first half without a third foul. He stayed in the game to play behind Kleine, with some help from the weak-side guard sagging back, and more help at times from a forward, depending on which Arkansas player had the ball.
Kleine remembered the shot he made -- a fade-away jumper over Ewing. "It felt real good," Kleine said. "But it was the last real shot I would get."
Actually, he got three more -- a fade-away jumper that missed, a short jumper that was smacked back at him by Ewing, and a jump hook that was redirected by Ewing. But Kleine's point was well-taken.
"Everybody's starting to play zone against us like that," he said. "But everybody doesn't have Patrick Ewing, Ralph Dalton and Horace Broadnax."
The Razorbacks helped Georgetown by making only 17 of 49 shots from the field, 34.7 percent. Take away forward Charles Balentine, who scored a game-high 22 points on 10-for-16 shooting, and the rest of the team made seven of 33.
That kind of shooting doesn't exactly demand that a defense loosen its zone. Freshman starting guards Kenny Hutchinson and Mike Freeman each made one field goal in eight attempts.
"When your guards make two out of 16 and when you make five of 17 from the free throw line, you're in trouble," Sutton said after a bout with the stat sheet. "Several teams have played us with that type of zone, and you gotta be able to shoot the ball out on the floor. We had to be able to hit some outside shots to spread the zone."
It never happened. Except for the brief moment that Arkansas tied the score at 14 on Hutchinson's jumper, Georgetown was in control.
One sequence late in the first half might have been important, if one insists on the proverbial turning point. It occurred when Kleine was called for offensive goaltending. Sutton said replays showed Ewing's hand touching the ball in the cylinder.
Sutton walked to the top of the key to complain and was immediately given a technical foul. Instead of Arkansas trailing, 26-20, Wingate made both foul shots for 28-18, and Ewing jammed a missed shot by Williams on the possession. The goaltending call, in effect, turned into a six-point swing for Georgetown.
Arkansas trailed, 30-20, at halftime. And the only time the Razorbacks had a chance to make things exciting came when reserve forward Eric Poerschke scored on an offensive rebound to close the margin to 43-35.
Broadnax and Williams missed shots, giving the Razorbacks the ball and a chance to come within six. But Balentine, who scored 11 of his team's 19 second-half points, missed a jumper in the lane.
Ewing came back to hit a fall-away jumper for a 45-35 lead and Arkansas' mini-rally, if not the game, was over.
There was absolutely nothing pretty about this game. Georgetown shot 42 percent, Arkansas 35 percent. The Hoyas, attempting to push the ball upcourt, committed 25 turnovers. The Razorbacks had 19.
The pounding inside was vicious. Kleine looked as if he could hardly walk the last 10 minutes of the game. Thompson said the refs could have blown a whistle every two seconds and that every player on the floor could have fouled out. "It looked at times to me," he said, "like football linemen under the basket."
It wasn't the kind of artistic game that fans like to watch on national television, but it's what happens when two primarily defensive teams get together.
Sutton, in fact, was so wary of Georgetown's defense he called time out 13 seconds into the game after Georgetown, leading, 2-0, forced the Razorbacks into a turnover on their first inbounds pass. "I didn't like what I saw and I didn't want the game to get away," he said.