PROVIDENCE, R.I. — They came as advertised, unafraid and unpredictable, ready to show mighty Georgetown how the city boys from Chicago play their peculiar brand of basketball.
Eventually, it became clear enough--they don't play it as well. But, before it was all done, they had put a genuine scare into the Hoyas, and how many teams can say that?
Of course, it was Georgetown in the end after all, knocking off Loyola 's Ramblers, 65-53, behind Patrick Ewing's 21 points and 14 rebounds in an East Regional semifinal Thursday night that was a basketball game and a morality play all at once.
In the evening's first game, Georgia Tech beat Illinois, 61-53, and now gets to play Georgetown Saturday for the East championship and a trip to the Final Four at Lexington, Ky.
No one can look forward to playing Georgetown--defending champion, 33-2, winner of 15 in a row--but Tech saw Thursday that the Hoyas are mortal. Loyola proved at least that much.
As promised, the city kids didn't back off. They weren't afraid. They dribbled between their legs at every opportunity. They shot right through the Georgetown press. And, of course, they shot the ball given the slightest provocation, from anywhere. Occasionally, the ball would even hit the rim.
Loyola (27-6) led at the half, 28-26, and if the free-shooting Ramblers had hit more than 38% of their often outrageous shots, well . . .
"I think we had 'em worried for a while," Carl Golston, Loyola's outspoken point guard said after the game. "Didn't you think so?"
Worried, maybe. Confused, certainly.
"I didn't like what I was seeing out there," Georgetown Coach John Thompson said. "I didn't like my team's alertness."
His team was maybe a little stunned. The Hoyas were losing, 38-36, with 15 minutes to play. At that point, Georgetown did the logical thing, spreading the floor and opening it up inside for Ewing.
Against a front line where the tallest man was 6-9, Ewing, at 7-0, took over. He scored 14 of Georgetown's next 20 points, and the Hoyas were comfortably ahead, 56-51.
"Typical Patrick," Thompson said.
"What could we do?" Golston mused. "Man, he's big."
There's certainly nothing like him on the playgrounds of Chicago. They're filled with players like Loyola's, free spirits who play the game hard but, well, differently.
They come out shooting, but the big guns were jamming on this night against Georgetown's defense. Alfredrick Hughes, the fifth-leading scorer in NCAA history, right behind Oscar Robertson, was held to 8 points on 4-of-13 shooting. It was the first time in 94 games he hadn't scored at least 10.
Andre Battle was 5 for 13 and Golston 3 for 12. That was your ballgame.
When Georgetown took a four-point lead with more than 11 minutes to play, Thompson had his team go into a four-corners, and Michael Jackson, who had 12 assists, had the Ramblers chase him the rest of the night.
A moral victory?
"If we didn't think we could win this game, we wouldn't be crying these tears," Golston said. "They got every break. We didn't get any."
In the first game, Georgia Tech broke down Illinois in a style that must have given Georgetown a quick flash of recognition.
This was the way the Hoyas always used to do it.
To begin with, Mark Price, along with teammate Bruce Dalrymple, completely shut down Illinois star guard Bruce Douglas, co-player of the year in the Big Ten last season.
Douglas, saying he was "out of sync," scored four points and turned the ball over nine times. Eventually, Coach Lou Henson had to pull him out of the game.
"He was frustrated," Dalrymple said. "There was a time when I knew I had an edge on him."
Then, the Illinois power game, feared in Big Ten circles, never materialized at Providence. Georgia Tech was bigger, quicker, better. And the last of the Big Ten's six entries in the NCAA tournament was eliminated.
It would have been a complete embarrassment for Illinois except for the remarkable shooting of Doug Altenberger, who led all scorers with 24 points.
Price, who scored 20, hitting 9 of 12 shots, hit a jumper to put Georgia Tech ahead, 52-37, with 7:03 to play. Douglas was out of the game. Efrem Winters, the other Illinois star, was hardly a factor, scoring four points.
And so Altenberger went to work. He hit six consecutive jumpers, some from as far as 25 feet, made two free throws and accounted for the Illini's next 14 points. His last basket narrowed the lead to 55-51 with 1:24 to play.
"It was time to get nervous," said Price, who was hitting his shots from the same range as Altenberger. Loyola could have used those guys.
But just when it really might have gotten interesting, Altenberger was called for a foul, his fifth, when he bumped Dalrymple with 1:25 to play. He didn't like the call.
"Great call," Georgia Tech Coach Bobby Cremins said, beaming. "I'll say this, I was glad to see him foul out.