American University upset No. 5 Georgetown, 62-61, last night before 9,902 at Capital Centre.
For American (4-1), the school located off Massachusetts Avenue, this was pure Madison Avenue stuff. The biggest victory in school history, they were calling this.
"Maybe we won't have to play second fiddle to Georgetown, GW and the rest of them now," said AU senior guard Gordon Austin, whose cool play and late-in-the-game free throws guaranteed the AU victory.
For Georgetown (6-2), the school on the district's hilltop and the nation's mountaintop, this one smarts. The defeat follows Saturday night's 68-63 loss to No. 1 Virginia. And the Hoyas just aren't used to losing two straight.
"Saturday's game had nothing to do with it," said Hoyas Coach John Thompson. "We were outplayed, that's all."
These are the facts of a game that seemed mostly fantasy:
American won without leading scorer Ed Sloane, out with a groin pull. His replacement, sophomore guard Steve Nesmith, scored 14 points on seven-for-nine shooting from the floor.
"Rebounding was the key," said Ed Tapscott, first-year American coach. Georgetown outrebounded AU, 37-34, but consider AU's tallest starter is 6-foot-8 Andre Adams.
American led, 39-24, at the half. The Eagles' senior forward, Mark Nickens, scored 13 of his 17 points in the half, while Austin set the game's tempo, consistently breaking the Hoyas' press.
Georgetown seemed thoroughly flat in the first half, shooting 38 percent. Freshman David Wingate's 16 first-half points (he scored a game-high 24) kept the Hoyas in the game.
The Eagles then built the lead to 43-24 with 17:20 left. Georgetown rallied behind junior guard Gene Smith (seven steals, six assists) for an 18-2 streak that pulled the Hoyas within 51-50 with 3:02 left.
"It seemed like we were on 51 for a month," said Tapscott.
Then Austin turned utterly marvelous. He scored on an underhanded scoop drive over Patrick Ewing in the lane, giving American a 53-50 edge with 4:06 left.
Ewing made one free throw, closing it to 53-51 with 3:48 left. Two seconds later, Austin was fouled by Hoyas' freshman guard Michael Jackson (who thereby fouled out) and Austin made both free throws for a 55-51 AU advantage.
After a Hoya miss, here again, Austin charged the lane, causing Ewing to foul him. It fouled Ewing out of the game.
Usually, after you challenge Ewing once, you don't do it again. "But you have to realize," Tapscott said, "Gordon Austin is crazy."
After Ewing took his 11-point, 16-rebound presence off the court, Austin sank both free throws and AU led, 57-51, with 3:46 left.
Anthony Jones scored from underneath for the Hoyas, cutting it to 57-53 with 2:50 left. As the Hoyas continued their full-court press, American's Nesmith hit a 12-foot bank from the right side and AU led 59-53 with 2:39 to go.
American continued its stall tactics, but seemed rattled by a Georgetown press that has rattled seven other teams this season. But Austin became the glue to composure for American. He was fouled and made the first free throw with 1:21 left, American inching up to a 60-53 lead.
Add craziness: Georgetown's Wingate scored on a drive (60-55) with 1:08 left; American turned the ball over; Hoya David Blue scored from underneath (60-57) with 27 seconds left.
AU's Fernando Aunon made his first free throw (61-57) with 26 seconds left; Wingate hit an 18-footer from the left base (61-59) with 18 seconds to go. The Hoyas were out of timeouts at this point. AU's Juan Jones was fouled, made his first free throw (62-59) with 13 seconds left.
It was a key free throw. "All summer long I worked on my free throws for a moment like this," Jones said.
Georgetown's Smith made a 12-footer, closing it to 62-61 with two seconds left. American never even in-bounded the ball after that. It didn't have to. Time expired. So did the Hoyas.
"At the end, when I realized it was over," said Nickens, " . . . that we had done it, I just wanted to stand there for a minute and savor the moment."
"I walked over to John (Thompson) when it was over," said Tapscott, a lawyer. "And he said to me, 'Congratulations, professor.' "
Thompson is never one to worry this early in the season. Long after this game ended, he walked out of Capital Centre, bundled up for the evening cold, singing, "May the pavement stay beneath my feet."