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Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
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Thursday / January 18.
  • Ewing downs Mullin in battle of old Big East rivals. Again.

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    By ADAM ZAGORIA

    NEW YORKChris Mullin and Patrick Ewing played their last collegiate game against one another 33 years ago in the 1985 national semifinals at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Ky.

    Ewing and Georgetown won that game before falling to Villanova in what some consider the greatest NCAA championship game ever played.

    Three weeks before that, Ewing and the Hoyas also beat Mullin and the Redmen to win the Big East Tournament championship at Madison Square Garden.

    If you asked Mullin at that time if he ever could have imagined the two rivals one day coaching their alma maters against one another, he might’ve thought you were nuts.

    “One hundred percent never in my wildest dreams would I ever think I’d be here in 2018 coaching St. John’s against Patrick Ewing coaching Georgetown,” Mullin said.  “We’ve been here so long, it’s just another thing we’re doing.”

    Just like in those momentous college games that captured the imagination of a generation of college basketball fans, Ewing and the Hoyas came out on top, knocking off St. John’s, 69-66, before 9,406 in an electric atmosphere at the Garden. The crowd included legendary St. John’s coach Lou Carnesecca, Stan Van Gundy, Tim Hardaway, Mike Dunleavy, Bill Wennington, Brent Barry and Herb Williams. 

    New York native Jessie Govan hit the clutch three-pointer with 26.7 seconds left to propel Ewing to the victory in the building where he spent most of his career sweating and bleeding for the Knicks. Govan finished with 18 points, 13 rebounds and 2 blocks. Marcus Derrickson added 17 points for the Hoyas and former St. Anthony’s guard Jagan Mosely had 13 points and 5 assists.

    “Oh yeah, it was definitely big,” Govan said. “It’s his first Big East game in the Garden. It’s a historic rivalry between Georgetown and St. John’s, Patrick Ewing and Chris Mullin and all, that so we definitely wanted to get this one for him, so it was good to walk out of here with a win.”

    “Feels good,” Ewing told a room full of reporters. “As you know, I’ve had a lot of great memories here. I’ve had ups and downs and a lot of good and bad memories against that guy but it was good to be back. The game, just like the old times. It was a knock down, drag out fight. It was one of those ugly games, but I was just happy we got the win.”

    Ewing, 55, and Mullin, 54, greeted one another just after the National Anthem before the game began, with Ewing teasing Mullin about wearing a suit and tie.

    “We’ve developed a great friendship over the years,” Ewing said. “Before the game I was joking with him because I don’t think I’ve ever seen him in a tie. He told me he wore it in my honor. So that was his sweater.”

    Mullin and Ewing were synonymous with the Big East when it was considered the best conference in the nation and placed three of the four teams in the 1985 Final Four.

    They then went on to be teammates on the 1992 Dream Team that won the Barcelona Olympics, and to have long NBA careers that put both in the Hall of Fame.

    Now both are back coaching their alma maters.

    “I think it’s a great rivalry,” Ewing said. “Both teams have a rich tradition. Before myself and Chris came, you had Louie and Coach [John] Thompson. You had ‘The Sweater Game’ and then you had myself and Chris playing against each other in Big East Tournament games and in the regular season.

    “Now it’s come full circle with both of us coaching against each other. it’s what dreams are made of. I’m from Jamaica, he’s from Brooklyn and we both played a sport that we loved, battled each other, become friends, won two gold medals together and now we’re battling each other again.”

    Both coaches have a long way to go to reclaim their former glory, too.

    Georgetown, picked ninth in the Big East, is now 12-4, 2-3 in the league.

    St. John’s, picked sixth, fell to 10-7, 0-5.

    Things won’t get any easier, either. The Johnnies host No. 1 Villanova on Saturday before heading on the road to meet No. 10 Xavier.

    Asked if was upset with his team’s poor start, Mullin said he wasn’t.

    “The only thing that’s going to distract us or keep us down is a negative mindset,” he said. “Keep competing and keep working hard and things will turn for us.”

    As for competing against his old rival, Mullin said: “We got a long relationship, I’ve got a lot of respect for him. It’s just a very surreal and unique.”

    Ewing, back in the building where he spent so many years with the Knicks, ended his press conference on a light note.

    “I’m gonna go ice my elbow now,” he said with a smile.

    FREE THROWS

    Mullin said guard Marcus LoVett, who has been day-to-day with a knee injury for five weeks, will “probably get on the court tomorrow” for practice. Asked when he might he play in a game, Mullin said, “I don’t know.” ….St. John’s guard Shamorie Ponds (17 points) appeared to re-aggravate his own knee injury, but Mullin said, “I think he’s OK.”

     

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    Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle. A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013. He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.