By Liz Clarke
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, January 31, 2010; D01
With a dazzling display of shooting, Georgetown roared back Saturday from its most humbling loss of the season to rout No. 8 Duke, the nonconference foe it most loves to beat, 89-77.
The game drew a capacity crowd of 20,039 to Washington's Verizon Center -- nearly all of them clad in gray in a display of Georgetown pride -- including President Obama and Vice President Biden, who looked on from courtside seats.
While Obama did nothing to convey a rooting interest, seemingly there to cheer college basketball in general, the lopsided nature of the contest thrilled the unabashedly partisan throng.
Seventh-ranked Georgetown (16-4) shot 71.7 percent -- a record during Coach John Thompson III's tenure on the Hilltop -- while holding Duke (17-4) to 37.1 percent.
In throttling the highest-ranked team in the ACC, Georgetown made a powerful statement about Big East muscle and erased any doubt about its own credentials as a top-10 team.
Sophomore center Greg Monroe delivered the brawny, physical performance Hoyas fans and NBA scouts have longed to see, complementing his 21 points with five rebounds, five assists, two steals and a block. Back-court mates Chris Wright and Austin Freeman were nearly flawless, hitting 16 of the 20 shots they took between them. And every Hoya who contributed played defense as if the pride of Georgetown, the city of Washington and the entire nation was at stake.
"We could never match their emotion," said Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski, whose team led just once, at 17-16. "The place was electric. Their team was electric. And they played that way for 40 minutes. We haven't had a team shoot 72 percent against us since I don't know when."
The lopsided nature of the game, more pronounced than the score indicated, atoned for Georgetown's recent 73-56 loss to No. 4 Syracuse, in which the Hoyas turned over the ball 19 times and withered under Coach Jim Boeheim's zone defense.
Saturday against Duke, Georgetown stormed to a 13-point lead at halftime and exploited Duke's carelessness with the ball to explode for a 23-point lead with 4 minutes 31 seconds remaining.
When the buzzer sounded, Thompson claimed the 200th victory of his career in storybook fashion -- against Krzyzewski, a Hall of Fame coach, and with his own Hall of Fame father, John Thompson Jr., watching from courtside.
The normally restrained Thompson was liberal in praise of his players.
"I think that this group can beat any team in the country -- if we do what we're supposed to do," Thompson said. "And if we don't, we can lose to everyone else on our schedule."
With Wright and Freeman setting an intense yet judicious tone (hitting 11 of their first 12 shots), the Hoyas shot 77.3 percent in the first half.
"Our team, with each game, is getting a heightened sense and understanding that we don't have to take a bad shot," Thompson said. "With the offensive players we have, we know where our shots are coming from. And they're doing an outstanding job night-in and night-out to help each other get shots."
On defense, the Hoyas attacked the ball with a zeal they hadn't shown all season, punching it out of the Blue Devils' hands with the fury of NFL linebackers separating the football from running backs.
Duke was led by junior Nolan Smith (19) points. Kyle Singler and Jon Scheyer had 18 and 17, respectively, But none shot well, with Singler (4 of 14) struggling in particular.
"We wanted to be aggressive on the defensive end and try to contest every shot," Wright said. "We were just focused."
The Hoyas took an early lead and surrendered it only when Duke's Miles Plumlee got a tip-in that put Duke up, 17-16.
Freeman answered immediately with a three-pointer.
Consecutive Duke turnovers led to easy transition buckets for the Hoyas, who took a 31-20 lead.
The din in the arena was deafening, but the Hoyas kept their poise, playing ruthless defense and selfless offense.
At one point in the first half, Georgetown made 10 baskets in a row. The Hoyas were particularly effective in the paint, where they outscored Duke, 48-24.
Duke scored the first six points of the second half, but Monroe and Julian Vaughn ended any notion of a rally with resounding dunks on consecutive plays. After hitting a driving layup that gave Georgetown a 78-58 lead, Wright flapped his arms at the stands, calling for more noise. He followed with a reverse layup on the Hoyas' next possession, and the rout was on, with Georgetown students shouting: "Yes we can! Yes we can!"