President Obama courtside, No. 7 Georgetown trounce No. 8 Duke

No. 7 Georgetown hands No. 8 Duke an 89-77 defeat in front of President Obama and a sold out Verizon Center.
By Gene Wang
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, January 31, 2010

Georgetown men's basketball Coach John Thompson III had plenty of motivational implements at the ready leading up to Saturday's game against Duke. Foremost was the opponent, which always engenders passionate disapproval among spectators whenever it goes on the road. Throw in a national television audience, a packed house of 20,039 at Verizon Center and the sting of Monday's deflating loss at Syracuse, and the Hoyas had every reason to play with focus and fervor.

Then the president of the United States arrived, and a game that had the feel of an NCAA tournament contest became even more of a big deal.

"I would say since I've been here probably the best atmosphere -- not to say we didn't have any good ones [before] -- but today is the best atmosphere I've played in at Verizon Center," sophomore center Greg Monroe said. "Having the president in your presence, it means a whole lot. It was definitely great to have him here."

Monroe, along with the junior back-court tandem of Chris Wright and Austin Freeman, certainly entertained America's most famous basketball fan, who watched seventh-ranked Georgetown roll to an 89-77 victory over the No. 8 team in the country. Monroe led the way with 21 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists, while Wright had 21 points and Freeman 20 with five assists.

President Obama arrived approximately three minutes before tip-off along with a contingent that included top adviser David Axelrod and press secretary Robert Gibbs. Greeted with a standing ovation, Obama smiled broadly and waved to the crowd as he walked past one of the Georgetown student sections and sat courtside directly opposite the Hoyas' bench.

At that point, the commotion was so overwhelming that many fans trying to get a glimpse of the president did not realize the national anthem was underway. Obama also was a bit preoccupied, shaking hands with as many well-wishers as he could before directing his attention to center court and standing at attention during the playing of "The Star Spangled Banner."

When the game finally began, Obama watched intently as the Hoyas built a 16-12 lead with 11 minutes 9 seconds to play. Around that time, Vice President Biden arrived and sat next to Obama, and the two carried on a lively conversation as Georgetown increased its lead to 31-20 with 7:19 left before halftime.

By intermission, the Hoyas had a 46-33 lead courtesy of 77 percent shooting, including 5 of 7 from three-point range.

"They're looking good right now," Obama said as he made the rounds during halftime.

Among those who greeted the president were District Mayor Adrian M. Fenty and former Georgetown coach John Thompson Jr. Obama also waved over Washington Post columnist Michael Wilbon as halftime was winding down, and the two spoke briefly in front of a gaggle of photographers assembled by the baseline.

Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis, who also is in the midst of trying to purchase the Washington Wizards and Verizon Center, sat in the same row as Obama and during the break spoke extensively with Biden.

The buzz surrounding Obama was so considerable that even some of the most recognizable figures in D.C. sports became paparazzi. Agent David Falk, for instance, snapped pictures with his mobile device.

When the focus turned back to basketball, the Blue Devils began the second half by making consecutive three-pointers to trim the margin to 46-39. But the Hoyas countered with six straight points and never were threatened seriously for the remainder of the game.

Then late in the second half, when the Hoyas were ahead by 23 points, fans began chanting "Yes we can!" in a tribute intertwining Obama's campaign mantra with Georgetown's domination of Duke.

"He always brings energy, right?" Thompson III said of the president. "I mean it was good to have him here. It was good to play well when he was here."

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