By Camille Powell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, December 3, 2006
DURHAM, N.C., Dec. 2 -- There was no manic celebration this time, no sense of tremendous accomplishment for the Georgetown's men's basketball team following its game against Duke on Saturday night. Instead, there was frustration over missed opportunities and further realization that this team has many improvements to make.
The 11th-ranked Blue Devils dominated the second half to pull away for a 61-52 victory in front of a raucous Cameron Indoor Stadium crowd of 9,314. No. 18 Georgetown scored just three points over the final 6 minutes 27 seconds and lost its second game in a row. The Hoyas (4-3), who began the preseason ranked eighth, will drop out of the national rankings -- a perch they have held since upsetting top-ranked and undefeated Duke last January.
Sophomore guard Jessie Sapp led the Hoyas with 13 points and four assists. The Blue Devils (7-1), who extended their home non-conference winning streak to 46 games, were able to hold Georgetown's two standout juniors, 6-foot-9 Jeff Green (8 points on 2-of-6 shooting) and 7-2 Roy Hibbert (11 points on 5-of-8 shooting) in check. Georgetown turned to those two when they needed baskets to stay with Duke in the second half, but neither player was able to get his shots to fall.
"There was a stretch there where we definitely wanted to go inside and put the ball in their hands," Coach John Thompson III said of Hibbert and Green, two preseason Wooden Award candidates. "Our guys are still sorting through and trying to figure everything out. . . . At the end of the day, if we put it in anybody's hands, it's going to be one of those two guys, and we're going to let them make a decision on what happens. We just have to get better."
Saturday's game didn't produce the same quality of play that last season's 87-84 thriller in Washington did, as the teams combined for 35 turnovers. Both teams have struggled on offense this season and this week in particular; the Hoyas were stagnant and sloppy in their home loss to Oregon on Wednesday, and Duke managed just four field goals in the second half of its win over Indiana on Tuesday. The Blue Devils, rather uncharacteristically, entered the game with 20 more turnovers than assists this season.
That trend continued in the first half. The Blue Devils started the game with back-to-back three-pointers by DeMarcus Nelson (12 points), but then committed turnovers on four straight possessions (they had 10 in the first half, many unforced), which allowed Georgetown to take control of the game.
The Hoyas were able to get good looks at the basket, both inside and outside -- though they missed seven of the eight three-pointers they attempted. They spread the floor, often with Green (five assists) handling the ball at the top of the arc, and scored three baskets off of back cuts, the same tactic they used so effectively in last year's upset.
Sapp did a good job of choosing when to attack the basket and when to feed his teammates; he set up Hibbert for two of his three first-half dunks. Georgetown shot 57.7 percent from the field -- and 77.8 percent from two-point range (14 of 18) -- and built a 34-27 advantage at the break.
But things changed in the second half. The Blue Devils didn't play the Hoyas as tightly on defense, and they made sure to double-team Green and Hibbert when they got the ball in the post. Georgetown didn't execute as cleanly, and even when the Hoyas did get a shot inside, it didn't go in. They made only 6 of 23 shots after the break, scored 18 points and committed 11 turnovers.
"They just read our plays more," said Green, who had three turnovers and no assists in the second half. "We got a lot of backdoors in the first half, but they kind of sagged back in the second half. I don't think we did a good job of adjusting. By them adjusting their defense, that caught us off guard."
Still, Georgetown led 49-47 with 6:27 remaining. Junior guard Jonathan Wallace committed a costly foul in Duke's backcourt that sent Greg Paulus to the free throw line for a one-and-one, and the sophomore sank both shots to tie the game. Paulus, who scored all 13 of his points in the second half, converted layups on consecutive possessions -- for the second one, he beat Hibbert, who is over a foot taller -- and gave Duke a 53-50 lead with four minutes to play.
Hoyas Note: Rivers was helped off the floor with 2:16 left in the game with a sprained right ankle. He was injured when he tried to block Scheyer's fast-break layup attempt, and landed awkwardly on Wallace's leg.