East Regional : Georgia Tech Is Given a Chance to Pull Upset

Times Staff Writer

Time is running out in the can-anyone-beat-Georgetown sweepstakes, otherwise known as the NCAA basketball tournament.

In the East Regional, it is left to Georgia Tech, ACC champion and perhaps--for once--a legitimate challenger. This afternoon's winner advances to the Final Four next weekend at Lexington, Ky.

"We're just glad to have this chance," Georgia Tech Coach Bobby Cremins said Friday.

"If we're going to get beat, we wanted to get beat by the best," Georgia Tech guard Bruce Dalrymple said.

The Yellow Jackets will get that opportunity. And while no one is suggesting that Georgia Tech (27-7) will beat Georgetown (33-2), there is a feeling that Tech could beat Georgetown. Which is more credit than most teams get, or deserve.

Tech has size, it has a pair of clever guards, it has high hopes. It has an outstanding floor leader in Mark Price. It has two players standing at least 6-11. You need all of those ingredients, and maybe more, to play Georgetown effectively.

It could happen this way:

Price and Dalrymple negate Georgetown's press; Price bombs from outside; Yvon Joseph, a 6-11 Haitian, occupies Patrick Ewing, thereby giving 7-0 forward John Salley room to maneuver inside. And if Georgetown doesn't shoot well, and if Georgia Tech can collapse on Ewing, and if rivers flow upstream. . . .

Well, you get the idea. Everything has to go Georgia Tech's way.

At least Tech brought a man to do a man's-size job, matching 27-year-old Joseph against Ewing, who is one inch taller and six years younger. This is the all-islands matchup, the Haitian Sensation vs. Ewing, a native of Jamaica.

There are a world of differences between them, however. Joseph is outgoing and has a smile for all; Ewing is withdrawn and sober. On the other hand, Joseph blocked just five shots all season; Ewing blocked five Thursday night.

Ewing is the best college player in the country and Joseph, who never saw a basketball until four years ago, is still learning the game.

"I'm going to watch him," Joseph said of Ewing. "I'm going to have him all by myself."

Big smile.

Joseph said he had watched Ewing many times on television. Ewing said he had never seen Joseph play, but that shouldn't bother Joseph. His mother never saw him play until three weeks ago at the ACC tournament.

"She didn't know I played basketball," Joseph said.

All she knew was that he was going to school to become an engineer. Joseph, who began to learn English the same time he began to learn basketball, now tutors his teammates in school. "I'm a fast learner," he said.

It is a strange story, Joseph's journey to the land of the roundball. When someone asked him how he got here from Haiti, Joseph said, "I didn't come here by boat, I came by plane."

He wanted to go to school in the United States and wound up at Miami Dade Junior College, where the basketball coach offered him a scholarship.

"I had to look up scholarship in the dictionary," said Joseph, who speaks three languages, including his native French and Creole.

He played well enough that Cremins came after him, and now he has developed into a decent player, averaging 12 points and 7 rebounds per game.

"We would not be here without him," Cremins said.

He does have his weaknesses, both hands, and rarely catches the ball cleanly. Cremins notes that Joseph was a volleyball player in Haiti and that "he didn't have to catch it, he hit it."

"When I first saw him, I didn't think he could play," Dalrymple once said of Joseph. "I thought he was just big and slow. We used to call him Stone Hands last year. He used to try to grab the ball and squeeze the air out of it, and it would pop out of his hands."

It was popping out of his hands Thursday night against Illinois, and Joseph said it was the powder that someone had put on his hands. So why did he do better in the second half?

"I washed my hands at halftime," he said.

Big smile.

It was smiles all around for Georgia Tech Friday. The Yellow Jackets, last in the ACC four years ago and now conference champions, have reason to smile. But they also have problems. Tech is only six deep and one player, ACC Rookie of the Year Duane Ferrell, is not at full strength, injuring his good knee Thursday night.

And then, of course, there is Georgetown, which has more than Ewing, which is plenty. Ewing destroyed Loyola of Chicago Thursday and said afterward, "I'm not ready to go home yet."

Georgetown also has that tenacious defense, and it has scorers in David Wingate, Reggie Williams--who has a twisted ankle--and Billy Martin, all of whom can hurt you inside and out. Playmaker Michael Jackson is playing the best basketball of his career. Georgetown is deeper and quicker and on a roll.

The Hoyas rid themselves of that funny team, Loyola, and are ready to settle down for some serious basketball.

Smile while you can.

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