As the St. John's players proceeded from their locker room to the Rupp Arena floor to warm up for today's NCAA semifinal game against Georgetown, they walked with their heads down.
It was as if they knew what they were about to face. But afterward, following a 77-59 defeat that made it three straight losses to the Hoyas in 31 days by a cumulative 46 points, the Redmen (31-4) could praise the defending national champions.
They compared Georgetown to the best college teams of all time. They talked about center Patrick Ewing, about the Hoyas' abundance of defenses, about their uncanny jump shooters. But most of all, they talked about Georgetown's intensity, the level of play that enabled the Hoyas to outscore St. John's, 23-6, in the opening minutes of each half.
"The sign of a great team is that they get up for every game," guard Mike Moses said. "I don't care if they were playing the blind, they'd be out there trying to kill 'em. I don't know the motivation or anything, but the intensity on that team is so great."
Center Bill Wennington said, "Georgetown is a great team. It just happens that they came along at the same time we did. We have a good team, a great team, too. We can play with the best teams. Unfortunately, we did."
Coach Lou Carnesecca had this observation: "I've never seen a team play so many different defenses so well. The great San Francisco team (1955-56) was a pressure team. Bobby Knight's half-court defense (on Indiana's 1976 team). UCLA zone-pressed you, then dropped back to man to man. Georgetown gives you six or seven defenses, and they're all complex."
All-America guard Chris Mullin could attest to that. For the third straight game, the Hoyas deployed a box-and-one against him, with David Wingate covering him primarily. Mullin hardly touched the ball.
He scored eight points, failing to get in double figures for the first time in 101 games and only the fifth time in his career. He had one assist, giving him five in the last three Georgetown games. He had 38 in the last six games not against Georgetown.
"Theirs is possibly the toughest defense to penetrate against," Mullin said. "It gets frustrating. If I can, I just try to keep my man occupied. It may not look like I'm doing anything, but I'm trying."
But trying hard isn't enough against Georgetown, Moses said.
"The last three games we've played well," he said. "But you can't play well and beat them. You have to play super . . . One way or another, they're the greatest team I ever saw in college basketball."
Moses is only 22, but he remembers the end of the John Wooden era at UCLA. "I saw those UCLA teams, and I don't think those guys are as good as these guys," he said. "Walton. They could be, but I'm not going to say they're not. I've played against these guys. I only saw UCLA play."
Georgetown's players aren't ready to compare themselves to anybody yet. But Ralph Dalton, the 6-foot-11 reserve center/forward, gives some insight about the way Georgetown got out of the blocks at the start of each half today.
"We want to start any half we play by picking up the intensity level so the game will be played at our tempo," he said. "We know if we just go out and play hard, we'll get things started the play we want."
So why doesn't Georgetown get tired the way its opponents do? Reserve guard Horace Broadnax attributes that to lots of hard running in practice. "Coach (John) Thompson doesn't believe in taking a vacation until after the season."
But Carnesecca had the last word: "At least there's some solace. Ewing's graduating."