Patrick Ewing looked on helplessly as his eighth-seeded Georgetown Hoyas melted down in the second half of their Big East tournament game against No. 9 St. John’s on March 11, losing in the first round after blowing a double-digit lead.
The loss effectively ended the Hoyas’ season with a 15-17 record, marking what would’ve been the fifth straight year Georgetown missed out on the NCAA Tournament field -- had the rest of the season not been canceled due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
It was a far cry from the performances of Ewing’s playing days, when Georgetown was a national powerhouse. And exactly 36 years ago from Thursday, that dominance peaked with the first and only national championship in Georgetown history.
Long before Ewing starred for the New York Knicks during a Hall of Fame NBA career, one in which he averaged 21.0 points, 9.8 rebounds and 2.4 blocks in 17 seasons, the 7-foot center stepped onto Georgetown's campus in 1981 as the crown jewel of what some considered to be the best recruiting class that year.
Prior to his arrival, the Hoyas were just turning the corner as a program. Legendary coach John Thompson guided the team to five NCAA Tournament appearances in the previous seven seasons after it had made just one appearance all-time -- losing in the 1943 national championship.
But once Ewing stepped on campus, the Hoyas transformed into perennial national championship contenders.
Georgetown reached the title game in three of Ewing's four years at the school, including his freshman season when they lost to a North Carolina team led by Michael Jordan and James Worthy. But two years later, on April 2, 1984, Georgetown defeated Houston 84-75 to finally clinch its first and only national championship in program history.
Houston, led by the great Hakeem Olajuwon and leading scorer Michael Young, was a formidable foe, having made the Final Four the previous two seasons and losing in the national championship in 1983. The Cougars’ Alvin Franklin scored a game-high 21 points, but they didn’t have the depth to keep up with a Georgetown team that got contributions from all over.
Five players scored in double-digits for the Hoyas, including a team-high 19 points off the bench from freshman Reggie Williams. Michael Graham, who was named to the 1984 All-Tournament team along with Ewing, Olajuwon, Franklin and Young, added 14 off the bench. David Wingate had 16 and Michael Jackson scored 11 points with 6 assists for the Hoyas.
Ewing, who had 10 points, 9 rebounds and 4 blocks, came out victorious against Olajuwon in the battle of giants and was named the Final Four Most Outstanding Player. Olajuwon finished with 15 points, 9 rebounds and 2 blocks.
Ewing's final stat line that season: 16.4 points, 66% FG, 10.0 rebounds, 3.2 blocks, and he was a first-team All-American playing for a Georgetown team that finished the season 34-3.
The following year, Georgetown made it back to the championship but was upset by an eighth-seeded Villanova. Ewing was selected first overall in the NBA draft that summer, but the Hoyas still enjoyed prominence as one of college basketball’s darling programs for several years after his departure.
Today, much of that luster has faded, which is why Ewing mans the sideline as coach now in hopes of guiding the Hoyas to the promised land again. But on this day 36 years ago, it was more than a dream. They Hoyas were the NCAA Div. I men's basketball national champions.
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