During one 10-minute stretch of Georgetown's 70-64 victory over Texas Tech Thursday night, the Hoyas played so flawlessly that as far as Michigan State Coach Jud Heathcote was concerned, there was only one thing to do.
"They were controlling both boards, shooting well, playing great defense, just doing everything right," said Heathcote. "I was watching this from the stands with my coaches and I told them that we were going to go into the tank in our game against Washington just so we wouldn't have to get embarrassed by them on Saturday."
By the end of Thursday night's first game, however, Georgetown felt lucky to escape with a victory. For that matter, so did Michigan State, which squeaked past the Huskies, 72-70, in the evening's nightcap. The two winning teams will meet Saturday at noon in the second round of the NCAA Midwest regional.
"I listened to some of the names and scores from the other games being played and, while I was impressed with someone like Mississippi Valley State, I felt sorry for Duke," said Georgetown Coach John Thompson, referring to the near-upsets in the first round of the NCAA tournament. "Coaches don't perceive things as being as imbalanced as the fans and media do . You don't know whether this guy will be off today or if that guy will come off the bench and do a great job. Coaches are afraid of everything."
Thompson's concern now is Michigan State guard Scott Skiles, who scored 31 points in the Spartans' victory over Washington but called it "a subpar night." The 6-foot-1 senior hasn't had very many of them this season, in which he averaged 28 points, five rebounds and almost six assists per game and was an all-America.
"He's one of the few guards who can dominate a game offensively," said Thompson. "But I'm probably more impressed with his leadership. Coaches always see people who can shoot. It's difficult to get someone to come out and lead."
That definitely isn't a problem for Skiles, who had harsh words for the opposing players and coaches as well as his teammates during Thursday's game. According to one Washington player, Skiles told him he was going to score 50 points.
After the game, Skiles said he didn't think that was exactly what he said. "No, it was probably more like 100 points," interrupted Heathcote.
Although Heathcote has been described as uptight, he has not appeared so here. Asked at a news conference today if his team will use any pressure defenses against Georgetown, as it did late in the game against Washington, Heathcote said: "That's only our panic D. We usually run the sieve defense. Larry Brown of Kansas said that all the clubs left in the tournament are great defensively. We'll argue that point."
In all probability, Thompson will open with David Wingate on Skiles and hope for a great deal of help from the rest of the Hoyas.
"That's how we play defense, as a team," he said. "You don't come to this point and change the things you've been doing all along, or else you're foolish."
Foul trouble could force Thompson to change. He called Georgetown "a guard-oriented team," but it was the Hoyas' big men who consistently were able to power inside against Texas Tech. In the process, though, Ralph Dalton, Ronnie Highsmith and Johnathan Edwards got into foul trouble. A repeat performance could put Georgetown in a bind.
"But we don't foul anyone," Thompson said jokingly. "That is a concern of mine, really. We apply pressure on defense but the officials are very sensitive in the NCAAs. There's almost a double contest going on, and I don't like that. The refs shouldn't be competing to get to the finals, too."