Georgetown’s sour March Madness loss doesn’t take away Patrick Ewing hope

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For a second, forget the miracle run that Georgetown went on just to be standing in Hinkle Fieldhouse on Saturday afternoon. Forget the four-wins-in-four-days gauntlet they had to survive just to reach Butler’s campus in Indianapolis, and the fierce throttling of Creighton in the Big East title game that secured their slot in the NCAA Tournament.

For a second, just listen to Patrick Ewing, a few minutes after Colorado ran his Hoyas clear out of the gym during a one-of-those-days 96-73 thrashing in their first tournament appearance in six years.

“Our book is still being written,” Ewing said. “We’ve accomplished a lot this year. A lot of people didn’t think that we were going to be here. We did an outstanding job of winning the Big East Tournament to give ourselves an opportunity to be here. I’m disappointed in the fact that we didn’t play our best game, but our future is bright.”

It really should be, and Ewing is the reason for that. A few weeks ago, there were some who thought that Ewing might be entering a danger zone at Georgetown, that progress wasn’t where it should have been. He has had his share of losses, notably Mac McClung, who played for the Hoyas last year and on Friday night scored 16 points for his new team, Texas Tech.

Ewing was unbothered by the whispers because he has, mostly, been unbothered by everything whenever he has been repping Georgetown. In the beginning, he was the force that delivered a championship 37 years ago. More recently, he was the one who promised deliverance back to the perch on which they once stood.

It isn’t easy being a living, breathing icon at the place where you first became a living, breathing icon. Chris Mullin and St. John’s learned that lesson the hard way during their reunification tour a few years back, one that ran its course before too much damage on either legacy could be inflicted. It’s one reason it would’ve been hard to see Don Mattingly manage the Yankees — knowing, inevitably, Don Mattingly would someday be fired by the Yankees.

The last week helped change the narrative around the Hoyas, probably for a while. That’s a good thing. Ewing should be given all the time necessary to make things happen there. This was an awfully good first step.

“We picked the first game of the NCAA Tournament to not play our worst game,” Ewing said with a sour smile. “And I’m disappointed about that.”

It was the kind of game Ewing the Hoya must have appreciated on a certain level, because it hearkened back to the kind of domination the Ewing-John Thompson Hoyas regularly displayed back in the day. There was a night at the Garden, the freshman year for Ewing and Mullin both, when the Hoyas and Redmen clashed in January 1982, that rivalry already feeling like it might become something special, Georgetown ranked 13th, St. John’s 20th.

The Hoyas led 41-9 at one point. They won the game 72-42.

There was another game, national semifinals against Kentucky, in Seattle, 1984. Kentucky was ranked No. 3, Georgetown No. 2. The Wildcats shot 25 percent from the floor. They scored 11 points in the second half. They won 53-40.

“In those days when they were at their best,” Mullin said a few years ago, “they didn’t just beat you, they made you want to take up a new hobby besides basketball.”

Colorado administered a different kind of beating Saturday, tossing in one 3-point rainbow after another en route to a 47-23 halftime lead. They shot 16-for-25 from deep. Maybe they weren’t as fearsome as the old Ewing-Michael Graham tandem that used to throw a cold chill into the sport. But it sure felt the same.

“No fun,” Ewing said.

Not Saturday. But the 10 days leading up to it sure were. And the years to follow sure should be. The Hoyas’ new book is still being written, authored by the man who, once upon a time, made sure the old one was a bestseller.

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