By Liz Clarke
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, January 18, 2009
DURHAM, N.C., Jan. 17 -- The call was as quick as a reflex and made amid the roar of Duke's Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Seconds earlier, Georgetown's big men had pared a 15-point deficit to four, giving the Hoyas new life in a wearying slugfest against the third-ranked Blue Devils.
But after an official heard something he didn't like from the Georgetown bench, he spun on his heels and called a technical foul on freshman center Greg Monroe.
Monroe's claim that he didn't say anything was ignored, and it offered little solace in the aftermath of the 76-67 loss that brought Georgetown's daunting nonconference schedule to a disheartening close on Saturday.
The technical, coming with 15 minutes 7 seconds remaining, counted as Monroe's fourth personal foul. And it changed the game's complexion, muzzling Monroe from that point on and opening new avenues of attack for Duke, which had been doing quite well against the Hoyas' defense anyway.
Still, Georgetown Coach John Thompson III took pains to say afterward that the call wasn't why the Hoyas lost. Nor was Duke's famously hostile home court, he added.
"They outplayed us," Thompson said with grim-faced clarity. "It's a very disappointing loss for a lot of reasons. But we have to move on."
Georgetown (12-4) had made great strides in its previous games, Big East victories over Providence and Syracuse that revealed a toughness and depth the Hoyas hadn't shown. But Saturday's loss contained few highlights and raised more questions than answers.
The Hoyas were led by junior forward DaJuan Summers, who was nearly unstoppable when Duke swingman Gerald Henderson wasn't on the floor to guard him. And Summers played with fury on the defensive end, as well. While he missed five of his 10 free throw attempts, Summers kept the Hoyas in the fight after a humbling first half and finished with 21 points, 7 rebounds and 4 steals.
"He's one of the best players we've played against this year or will play against," said Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski, whose team improved to 16-1.
Sophomore guard Austin Freeman added 15 points on 7-of-13 shooting for the Hoyas, and Monroe finished with 12 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists in 28 minutes.
But apart from Freeman, Georgetown got scant help from its starting guards. Jessie Sapp and Chris Wright were held scoreless on 0-for-6 shooting in the first half. So for the first time this season, Thompson relegated them to the bench and tapped freshman Jason Clark and sophomore Omar Wattad to start the second half, with Duke up 40-29.
Thompson declined to say whether the change would be permanent but left the possibility open.
"We continue to see our comfort level with different groups," Thompson said. "Tonight it was when Omar and Jason were out there. We made two separate runs when those guys were on the floor, so it's going to be a different group [on] different nights."
But no Georgetown player could contain Henderson. The 6-foot-4 junior made charmed three-pointers one minute and slashed to the basket for easy layups the next, pacing the Blue Devils with 23 points. Seventeen of those points came in his 18 minutes' work in the first half.
"He put them on his shoulders and carried them through the first half," Thompson said. "He was terrific. Unbelievable."
But even with rowdy Duke fans packed to the gym's rafters and a Blue Devil mascot romping around with a headband that read "HOYASTINK," Georgetown held its own through the game's first 13 minutes.
Summers showed the way.
But with the score knotted at 29, the Hoyas' offense stalled. Balls clanged off the rim; other shots were blocked. Monroe picked up his third foul with 1:59 remaining in the half. Meantime, Henderson hit back-to-back three-pointers to key an 11-0 run that sent Duke to the locker room fully in command.
Clark help cut the deficit early in the second half, and Summers added a three-point play that made it 46-42.
But about 30 seconds later, the technical was called on Monroe, who looked on from the bench. According to those nearby, the offensive words were shouted by a Georgetown fan standing just behind the bench.
"A lot of people were saying things," Monroe told reporters afterward. "I don't believe [the official] was really looking at the bench, but I know I definitely didn't say anything."
What followed was a lesson in composure.
Less than a minute later, Duke had expanded its lead to 52-42 on a strip and fast-break layup by Jon Scheyer. A few minutes later, Duke was up 61-45, and the noise was deafening.