The sign in the Georgetown section said, "Take it to the Cleaners, Looie."

St. John's Coach Lou Carnesecca's lucky sweater was soiled yesterday by its first loss, a demoralizing 85-69 defeat to Georgetown. With it probably went the No. 1 ranking. But Carnesecca and the Redmen absorbed the loss with the same sense of humor that had made the sweater famous in the first place.

"Even the sweater couldn't help us," Carnesecca said. "Give them all the accolades."

The expected marvelous shootout between St. John's guard Chris Mullin and Georgetown's Patrick Ewing never really materialized, the Hoyas making it their night from the start. Their complete control of the game may have answered decisively who is really No. 1, and the Redmen were reduced to stammers by what they experienced.

"I can't even make excuses," Carnesecca said. "They were smoking."

Georgetown's box-and-one defense didn't stop Mullin from getting his 21 points. He made eight of 16 shots from the floor. But it stopped him in other, more subtle ways. He was worn down by the Hoyas' ever-present muscle, and his renowned passing was seldom seen.

Mullin made but three assists. He did not get near the ball for most of the last seven minutes of the first half, which is when Georgetown made its fateful move and established the control it would keep the rest of the game.

"They made it hard for me to get the ball in the scoring area," Mullin said.

Georgetown Coach John Thompson said restricting Mullin's ball-handling capabilities as well as his shooting -- he came in averaging 18.7 points -- was a key to the Hoya defensive plan.

"He is still going to get his points, I don't care what you do to him," Thompson said. "But we wanted to work him as hard as we could. He's effective not just as a shooter but as a passer. He makes so many things happen."

Mullin didn't get much help from the rest of the Redmen, who were also busy being generally pushed around by the suffocating defense.

"They made Chris work extra hard," said center Bill Wennington. "We missed our picks and he needed them. It took us out of our offense."

Thompson had received roars of approval from the predominantly red-clad crowd of 15,951 when he opened his sport coat before the game and was wearing a "Looie-look" sweater underneath.

The red, brown and turquoise pullover has become part of the lore of the Redmen (24-2). It was 13-0 on Carnesecca's back until tonight. Afterward, Carnesecca pronounced Thompson's sweater a fraud.

"I wouldn't wear it," he said. "It's a cheap imitation."

The Redmen have one pretournament game remaining, against Providence on Saturday, and the consensus was that it was more important than any mourning over the lost ranking or the fallen sweater. Also, some drama was taken out of the evening by the realization that the two teams will probably meet next week in the Big East tournament, and the rankings could once again be reversed.

"I got another game," Carnesecca said. "There won't be as many people there, but it counts just as much."

Carnesecca has made a point of voting the Redmen low in the polls every week in an effort to avoid the hype that comes with being No. 1. He doesn't have that problem anymore, but said he'll continue the policy.

"We're still the same," he said. "I still think we're 15th."

And what of the sweater, which Carnessecca swore he would burn after the first loss?

"I think I'll give it one more chance," Carnesecca said.