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A Revival Meeting That Was a Long Time Coming

By Mike Wise
Sunday, January 22, 2006

Brandon Bowman cradled the ball on the ground. The horn blared. Kids, some of whom had spray-painted their chests a metallic silver and wore blue Afro wigs, stormed midcourt like frenzied Pamplonans after the bulls are released. They bobbed up and down, poking their index fingers toward the rafters.

Somewhere in the pandemonium of Georgetown's unfathomable upset of undefeated Duke yesterday, a coach named Thompson and a gangly kid named Ewing were celebrating with their Hoya brethren -- and it wasn't even 1985, the last time Georgetown toppled the No. 1 team in the nation.

This was not just one game in the middle of a maddening college basketball season. With each clutch jump shot Darrel Owens left fly, with each dunk Bowman threw down, the program's recent struggles -- the inability to recruit another future Hall of Famer, the four straight seasons without an NCAA tournament bid -- were all moot.

All net, all forgotten.

"I about lost my voice," Patrick Ewing Jr. said after Georgetown's wild 87-84 victory. He transferred to his father's alma mater from Indiana and won't be eligible until next season. But he was there leading the halftime chant. "No letups!" he yelled underneath the stands in the arena corridor. "No letups! We got a whole 'nother half."

This whole father-son nostalgia the university has been selling for almost two years had been more hope than reality entering yesterday afternoon, with more excitement coming from recruiting commitments than on-court results. But if John Thompson III has not yet completely refurbished the program his father willed into a national powerhouse, he got much closer in two of the most scintillating hours of basketball Georgetown has ever played at MCI Center.

As good as Georgetown's future looked, yesterday felt like old-home week. Oblivious to what had happened to his alma mater yesterday, Dikembe Mutombo got off a plane in Detroit, where his Houston Rockets will face the Pistons today.

"Georgetown beat Duke?" Mutombo said in that rich, baritone Cookie Monster voice of his.

"You mean men or women?"

"Men."

"No?" Deek said.

"Yes."

"Wow, they now have some very good players."

Very smart, too.

It is not often that Duke is taught how to play by another team. Yet Georgetown tutored the Blue Devils for more than a half, spreading the court, drawing many of college basketball's best on-the-ball defenders to the perimeter before beating them to the goal. Jeff Green, Georgetown's sophomore forward, completely outplayed Duke senior all-American Shelden Williams, who finished with four points in 34 minutes.

Duke was defensively delirious, caught napping as the Hoyas ran backdoor cut after backdoor cut. There was a reason it looked like Princeton vs. UCLA, circa 1996, when the defending national champs were stunned by a bunch of overachieving Ivy Leaguers cutting hard to the basket and making the most of every offensive possession in the first round of the NCAA tournament; Thompson III transplanted the Princeton offense to his father's old campus.

Yesterday, the Hoyas were a bunch of overachieving, smart Big Easters. They went to the floor. They withstood 41 points from the indefatigable J.J. Redick.

Redick hit some absolutely unbelievable layups, using the Hoyas as traffic cones on his way toward the rim. He made six three-pointers. But he was all Duke had yesterday.

"Bowman, Owens and Green, those were all big-time players," Mike Krzyzewski said afterward. When was the last time the most accomplished coach in the college game said that about Georgetown ballplayers?

He also made an important distinction: "It wasn't their offense as much as the unity of their offense," Coach K said.

Essentially, five playing as one knocked off six McDonald's All-Americans.

This win was a much more notable feat than the 1985 win, because the Hoyas were No. 2 when they beat Chris Mullin and Walter Berry's St. John's team. These Hoyas came in unranked. They had lost to every ranked team they had played. In fact, Duke was more responsible for filling the building than was Georgetown.

But this was an afternoon when the Hoyas' past and present fused together, and it felt right. On several T-shirts, sandwiched between the words "Some Have Forgotten" and "We Will Remind Them" was an unusually large Roman Numeral III.

Before tip-off, Big John was told his son's team would win if they played the perfect game.

"They have to play better than perfect," he said.

Afterward, he smiled. "They did, didn't they," he said.

Meanwhile, Mutombo was asking for details of his alma mater.

"This is good, exciting news for me," he said. "I can't wait to call Big John."

"Oh, did I tell you?" Mutombo added, "My youngest son will be there in two years. He's a junior now."

So there will be a Ewing and Mutombo at Georgetown at the same time, coached by a Thompson?

"Yes," Mutombo said.

More nostalgia at Georgetown.

Perfect. No, better than perfect.

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