Jim Calhoun's Connecticut Huskies saw the future last night and it was spelled G-E-O-R-G-E-T-O-W-N. Othella Harrington and Duane Spencer had just done some serious skywriting above and beyond the Huskies' heads, but the strong suspicion lingered that this message, rather than fade away, might be written in indelible ink.
Harrington and Spencer are a daunting pair of 6-foot-10 Hoyas freshmen, and if you're a UConn fan, you better hope they're planning on entering the NBA immediately. Otherwise, your Huskies -- and the rest of the alleged Big East beasts -- may be playing for second place. Not just this season. Next season. And the season after that, too.
After playing last-second cliffhangers in four of their first five conference games, the Huskies found out what it's like to get your face stepped on. Georgetown 86, UConn 69, in a game nearly as one-sided as the score indicates.
When it was over, Calhoun said it was Georgetown's superior heart and effort that decided the game. Nice try, coach. That's like saying Mel Gibson gets more romantic roles than Woody Allen because he's got a better agent. Georgetown won this game with superior talent, bulwarked by these two soft-spoken Southerners who are destined to take Georgetown further than Alonzo Mourning and Dikembe Mutombo.
At his postgame news conference, Calhoun, in a departure from custom, declined to accept a copy of the final box score, which he usually peruses while taking questions. When you've just been a prime witness at the crash scene, there's no hurry to read the police report.
Meanwhile, inside the Georgetown dressing room, the Hoyas were whooping it up, singing "HEY-O, HEY-O" in unison. Then the press was allowed in, and the Hoyas turned quiet, as quiet as 16,294 Civic Center fans had been as unappetizing reality descended on them.
Harrington, who had 22 points (11 of 17 from the field), five rebounds and one steal in 32 minutes, sat on a bench at one end of the dressing room. Spencer, who had 13 points, five rebounds, two blocked shots and one steal in 37 minutes, sat at the other.
Harrington, the 236-pound center, does not play like the baby bull that his size suggests. At least, not yet. Oh, he's plenty strong, but he's a wonderfully agile big man who ran the floor effortlessly and shot left-handed rainbows over the Huskies all night long.
"I've always had the left-handed turnaround," Harrington said. "I came to Georgetown to develop some other moves."
When he does, everyone else better get out of town.
Harrington, who entered the game averaging 19.8 points and 10.5 rebounds, has already earned Big East Rookie of the Week honors three times this season, and unless Georgetown winds up the week playing the Bulls and Knicks, he's on target to make it four.
Harrington is from Jackson, Miss. He was the most heavily recruited big man in the country last spring. Watching him, it was easy to see why. Yet Harrington displays none of the I-dare-you sneer that came to characterize, perhaps unfairly, the college games of predecessors Patrick Ewing and Alonzo Mourning.
Maybe it's because he doesn't have to. Harrington may not be the defensive stopper Ewing and Mourning were as freshmen, )) but he is a much more lethal offensive threat.
"Othella is a special player," Georgetown coach John Thompson said, "but kids have to play together to win, and that's the spirit of Othella that I like."
After the stomping, Othella also displayed a modesty the more outspoken Alonzo lacked. Asked what surprised him most about this, the beginning of his college career, Harrington said, "I was probably expecting to have a problem adjusting to the physical style of play."
Although less maddeningly efficient, the slender (205 pounds) Spencer's all-around game may be more intriguing. Spencer is from New Orleans, and as ridiculous and overstated as this sounds, he looks almost as comfortable dribbling the ball on the fastbreak as any good college point guard you can name.
On several occasions last night, Spencer led the break, passed to a guard, then finished the play himself with an ungodly left-handed hook. We were even more impressed when we found Spencer is right-handed.
"If they give us a chance to grow up," Thompson said, "we'll cause a little trouble."
Nicely understated, coach. And amen.