Hoyas KO the Big 1

Jeff Green
Georgetown's Jeff Green dominates from the pivot with 18 points and seven assists and holds Duke's Sheldon Williams to four points. (Jonathan Newton - The Washington Post)
By Camille Powell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, January 22, 2006

As the Georgetown Hoyas built a double-digit lead over undefeated and top-ranked Duke, the buzz inside MCI Center continued to build. But it wasn't until Duke freshman guard Greg Paulus lost the ball in the final seconds and Georgetown senior forward Brandon Bowman fell on it to preserve an 87-84 victory that the raucous sellout crowd of 20,035 could properly explode.

The students rushed the floor to celebrate the biggest victory any of them had ever seen -- the biggest victory any Georgetown team had seen in at least 20 years.

"The last nine minutes of the game seemed like 20 days," Bowman said. "Holding onto a lead like that and then knowing it's over -- it means a lot. I jumped on the ball, kind of as a sigh of relief. . . . Clearly, we haven't gotten the big wins throughout our whole careers here, but today things fell our way."

It was a cathartic win for a Georgetown team -- and in particular a senior class -- that had been on the wrong end of blowout losses against ranked teams, that endured a coaching change two years ago. It was the Hoyas' first victory over a No. 1 team since Feb. 27, 1985, and their first over any ranked team in nearly a year. Georgetown is now 12-4 overall; Duke is 17-1.

"It's a good win," said Georgetown Coach John Thompson III, drawing laughs in his postgame news conference. "I was happy for our seniors. They've come close, we've been there, we've been at the other end of some lopsided games, and for that group to win this game and for that group to experience that was special."

Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski was slightly more effusive in his praise of the Hoyas.

"We put ourselves in a position where we had a chance to win, and if we did, we would've been fortunate," Krzyzewski said. "Just what a superb performance [by Georgetown]. They were so deserving. If you get beat, you want to get beat by people who earn it, and they earned it."

Georgetown earned the win by being remarkably efficient on offense, strong on defense and poised at key moments in the game. Five Hoyas scored in double figures, led by Bowman's season-high 23 points and sophomore forward Jeff Green's 18, and the team shot a season-best 61.5 percent.

The Hoyas were able to shoot so well because they got such good looks at the basket; they had 24 assists on 32 field goals. On six first-half possessions, Georgetown scored on either a layup or dunk off of a backdoor cut and bounce pass, and that helped it build a 42-28 halftime advantage.

Duke, on the other hand, relied almost exclusively on senior guard J.J. Redick, who tied his career high with 41 points despite being constantly shadowed by either Bowman or Owens. The Blue Devils' offense during the final seven minutes of the first half seemed to consist of Redick bullying his way toward the basket and drawing fouls; Duke was outscored 19-5 in that stretch.

"We wanted to make J.J. work and earn his points," Thompson III said. "Going into it, you wonder how you are going to stop him and you're not, he's too good. He makes tough, contested shots. I was hoping that we could limit everyone else. He's going to score anyway."

The Hoyas made sure that the other Blue Devils didn't beat them. Roy Hibbert, Georgetown's 7-foot-2 sophomore, set the tone of the game at the start by aggressively challenging Shelden Williams inside and altering the senior forward's first shot of the game; Williams finished with a season-low four points, 14 below his average.

But Williams's basket inside with 4 minutes 3 seconds left in the game brought the Blue Devils, who had trailed by as many as 16, to within 74-72. The Hoyas never panicked, however. Guard Jonathan Wallace (12 points, 6 assists, 1 turnover) scored on a layup at the other end off of -- surprise -- a hard cut and pass from Owens. A fast-break dunk from Owens and a free throw from Green pushed Georgetown's lead back to 79-72 with 1:46 to play.

The Hoyas could have put the game away at the free throw line, but they made only 7 of 12 attempts. With less than 30 seconds remaining, Sean Dockery scored on a drive and then Paulus came up with a steal and layup that brought Duke to within three, 85-82. Wallace made one of two free throws with 6.5 seconds left on the clock, which gave Georgetown an 87-84 lead. That set up the final play of the game, and Paulus wasn't able to find Redick (6 for 11 from three-point range).

In the giddy moments after the game, the student sections behind each basket looked like a disaster zone, with toppled chairs and squashed cups. The arena floor was mobbed with dancing and screaming students. Redshirt forward Patrick Ewing Jr. picked up Cook, whose legs were cramping, and carried him through the crowd. Bowman stood on top of the scorer's table and screamed, and then appeared to stop and to hug every fan he came across as he walked off the floor.

Bowman's final hug went to former Georgetown coach John Thompson Jr. The Hall of Fame coach who built the program stood in the corner and greeted every player and coach as he headed toward the locker room.

"He was excited," Thompson III said of his father. "I was worried about him getting run down there in the corner. It's a big win for everyone involved in Georgetown basketball."

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