When St. John's lost its second game in nine days to Georgetown, a little more than two weeks ago, Coach Lou Carnesecca wondered aloud, "What are we gonna do, pull a trade?"
A fourth meeting between the two will occur Saturday in Lexington, Ky., and no swaps will be made. Georgetown Coach John Thompson wants his team to forget all three previous meetings and start from scratch. Carnesecca has thrown out some vague hints that he may change his team's strategy -- maybe drastically.
Thompson offered a half-frown yesterday at McDonough Arena when someone suggested that it should be easier to prepare for a team you've already played three times, and beaten badly twice. "I see this as only playing St. John's once," Thompson said. "Are you better off playing a team you have to stay up all night watching films of, learning from scratch? Or a team you've seen a lot?
"I know this. You've got to be sure you thoroughly go over things," he said. "All the other games don't mean anything. We have to act like this is the first time we've played St. John's."
Carnesecca must convince his players -- who have been outscored by 37 points the last five halves against Georgetown -- that they can do something to win.
Starting forward Willie Glass has a total of nine points and one rebound in the two games St. John's lost to Georgetown. Bill Wennington, the Redmen's 7-foot center, has made seven of 17 shots and grabbed eight rebounds in those two games. Chris Mullin, while scoring more than 20 points in each of the losses, has a total of four assists and a field goal percentage under 50.
And there's another little fact that hasn't escaped Carnesecca: Georgetown shot 60 percent in the second game, 57 percent in the third, in which all five Hoyas starters also scored in double figures.
Looking for answers on Monday, Carnesecca said, "Maybe there was too much concentration on (Patrick) Ewing. Maybe we ought to let Ewing get his bundle -- he's gonna get them anyway, right? We've put so much effort into stopping him that we made the other four guys accessible to what develops."
Carnesecca said he didn't know if there would be a strategy change and wouldn't decide until after a three-day film session. Monday, he watched St. John's 66-65 victory at Capital Centre, a game in which the Hoyas shot 40 percent and got Ewing only seven shots. Yesterday he watched the second meeting, which Georgetown won, 85-69, and today plans to review the Big East tournament final, which Georgetown won, 92-80.
Georgetown's players, too, have learned a lot over the past two games. Reggie Williams missed five of six shots in the Georgetown loss but scored 25 points in the second and an easy 14 in the third. "I learned you've got to take the 12- to 15-footers in a game like that," Williams said. "They pack their defense in tight, and there's no room to operate. Patrick's body gets in the way, too."
Carnesecca said, "We can't afford to make mistakes, or else we put the balls away."
And Indiana Coach Bob Knight, who was at the same New York luncheon as Carnesecca, told him, "Don't play so much damn zone," then added, "Georgetown is just the better team. I've seen enough of them to know when they're playing well and playing defense, no one will beat them. Not. St. John's, not St. Celia's, not St. Ambrose . . . "
Strategy aside, Thompson sounded genuinely glad that St. John's and Villanova -- like GU, all from the Big East Conference -- all made the Final Four. "Dean Smith (of North Carolina) is my dear personal friend, and I felt for him very much," Thompson said. "In terms of the Big East, I'm very proud. We (Carnesecca, Villanova Coach Rollie Massimino and Thompson) were the pioneers. Years from now, we can stick our chests out.
"Without a doubt, we're the best league this year. But I have mixed emotions, because now we're back in a competitive situation. We have to play St. John's again, not root for them."
Thompson said, only half in jest, "The biggest pain about the Final Four, believe it or not, is tickets. I have divorced myself totally from the ticket situation. I don't want to see another ticket or hear about another ticket.
"People call up and say, 'I just want one . . . I just want eight. I'll pay for them.' I'm talking about people that like me. They don't understand that the biggest pressure in your life is about to begin. 'Just get me some tickets.' "
Ronnie Highsmith, Georgetown's 6-8 freshman reserve forward, wore a large wrap around his knee before practice yesterday. He has had soreness off and on this season.
Georgetown senior forward Bill Martin disagrees with all the people who think Villanova is no match for Memphis State. "I like Villanova, honestly," Martin said. "Memphis State has sort of stumbled into the Final Four. Villanova has been consistent. If Memphis State has a soft period, Villanova will slip in, control the tempo, make the big plays and win the game."