Patrick Ewing had a number of crowning achievements at Madison Square Garden as a player. He now has one as a coach that can rival any of those.
Georgetown looked like it had transported itself back in the 1980s. Only instead of John Thompson patrolling the sideline, his greatest player was in his spot, old No. 33 who had many memorable moments as a player on the same floor.
After four years of disheartening defeats, player transfers and questions about the program’s direction, Ewing engineered a historic run at the Garden over four nights that even his most ardent supporters couldn’t have imagined. He guided his eighth-seeded Hoyas to a Big East Tournament title with an all-encompassing and crushing victory over second-seeded Creighton, 73-48.
With the stunning and one-sided victory, Georgetown received the automatic and very unlikely berth to the NCAA Tournament. The Hoyas last went dancing in 2015. They last won the Big East Tournament title in 2007. They also became the first team to win four games in as many nights since the creation of the new Big East in 2013.
Their unbelievable run, the first time a team that was picked last in the Big East went on to win the conference tournament, likely will give the league four teams in the NCAA’s field of 68. Creighton, Connecticut and Villanova are expected to receive at-large bids Sunday night.
Creighton (20-8) had all the big names. An All-Big East first team selection in Marcus Zegarowski. One of the nation’s premier shooters in Mitch Ballock. An attack ranked 11th in the nation in offensive efficiency.
Georgetown (13-12) didn’t have a single player honored on either the first or second team. Point guard Dante Harris, so impressive all week, wasn’t named to the All-Freshman team. Chudier Bile was playing in the low-major Southland Conference last year. They all looked like superstars the last four games, a group of guys dismissed by so many experts.
The same could be said of Ewing, who many had pegged as another NBA guy who couldn’t hack it in college. He lost his three most talented players last year to transfer.
Bile led four Hoyas in double figures with 19 points and eight rebounds. Qudus Wahab, who has emerged as a difference-maker in the pivot, had 11 points and 12 rebounds. Jahvon Blair had 18 points and Harris, an unranked recruit, notched 10 points, eight rebounds and five assists. Zegarowski scored 17 points to lead Creighton.
The opening minutes went according to the betting line. Creighton led 13-6. The stage seemed too big for Georgetown.
The Hoyas just needed some time to find their balance. Over the final 11:02 of the first half, they outscored Creighton 30-5. It was 36-18 at halftime, and it somehow got worse for the Bluejays.
Zegarowski hit a jumper to cut the deficit to 16. Georgetown scored 16 of the next 17 points. The lead was a mind-bending 31. It was a 34-3 run. It made no sense.
Just a week ago, the Hoyas trailed UConn by 27 points at halftime. They weren’t even expected to get past Marquette in the out-bracket round of this tournament, let alone knock off top-seeded Villanova or fifth-seeded Seton Hall the following two days. They were supposed to run out of gas Saturday night against Creighton’s prolific offense.
Instead, the Bluejays looked like the team that was playing their fourth game in as many days, and Georgetown resembled the program that some considered a Final Four contender.
Creighton couldn’t throw the ball in the ocean, missing 14 of its first 17 3-point attempts. It showed little fight, unable or unwilling to keep Georgetown out of the paint. The Hoyas owned the paint and dominated the glass. They got out in transition and were unyielding in their pressure.
The game was over by halftime. Patrick Ewing had plenty of time to savor his greatest accomplishment as a coach in the same building in which he had so many fond memories as a player.