St. John's Walter Berry said before last night's game with Georgetown that a sore ankle mattered little against a team like the Hoyas. In a big game like this, he said, you tend to forget your ailments.
For the first half last night in St. John's fourth straight victory over Georgetown at Capital Centre, it appeared that Berry was slowed a bit. But he warmed up and scored a game-high 22 points and made eight rebounds.
"In the heat of the battle, sometimes you don't feel it," said St. John's Coach Lou Carnesecca, who tried to keep Berry from speaking to the media after the game. "He may wake up tonight and feel it."
"It bothered me a little bit," said Berry, who had five turnovers in the first half but none in the second. "My ankle started to loosen up some."
Said Georgetown Coach John Thompson, wryly, "He had a sprained ankle only as long as we defended him well."
The difference in Berry's play in the two halves was a major factor in the Redmen's comeback from a 30-26 halftime deficit. He was only three of nine from the field in the first half; five of six in the second.
"I just came out and played in the second half," said Berry, who was motivated by conversations on the court with Georgetown's Ronnie Highsmith.
"All great players come back after a slow beginning," said Georgetown forward Grady Mateen. "I didn't notice that his ankle was injured."
Said Carnesecca: "To be honest with you, the way he was jumping," it didn't bother him that much.
Berry started the game as if he was easily going to meet his 23.2 scoring average, making his team's first six points. He cooled off, though, and his mistakes were abundant, ending in an offensive goaltending call near the end of the half.
"I thought he was rushing a little bit," said Carnesecca. "He was itchy. I told him at halftime to have a little confidence."
In the second half, Berry scored eight of his team's first 14 points to wipe out the Hoyas' lead. After scoring the first two baskets in the lane, he scored inside then drove from the right side with a sweeping hook to put the Redmen ahead, 40-37. On Georgetown's next possession, he stole the ball from Reggie Williams, and Ron Rowan scored on a 15-footer.
Although Berry's free-throw shooting was suspect for most of the game, he made two with 2:35 remaining to give St. John's a 58-55 advantage. After he swished the first shot, he smiled and looked over to the bench as if to say: "Now everything is working again."
"I thought we contained him fairly well," said Thompson. "As any great player, he got loose and got some baskets."
Said Hoyas center Ralph Dalton: "Berry always plays well. He hasn't had a bad game all season. He always plays well in the big games. He plays a good all-around game."