When all the screaming and hollering finally was over, when the shock finally had set in that Georgetown's 38-game winning streak over non-Big East opponents had ended, Coach John Thompson put the evening in perspective when he said, "This is still December."
Texas-El Paso, playing before an energetic crowd of 12,222 in the Special Events Center, beat Georgetown soundly, 78-64, Friday night. It was Georgetown's most lopsided loss since December 1982, when the Hoyas lost to Alabama by 21.
A Georgetown loss still is rare enough to be a significant occurrence; after all, the Hoyas had won 78 of their last 84 games before playing UTEP. And the six defeats were by a total of 13 points.
The Hoyas (9-1) lost primarily because they shot poorly from the free throw line (59 percent) and were outrebounded by an active and improving Miners team (9-1). But anyone looking for major revelations on how to beat the Hoyas won't learn much here.
The loss, in the long run, means next to nothing. If anything, Thompson has all the motivational tools he could want for practices between now and the Big East opener Thursday at Pittsburgh.
"Always, when you lose a ball game, we're ready to dissect ourselves too much to the extreme," Thompson said. "We didn't get offensive rebounds and free throws in the crucial parts of the game. . . . I think the game really helped us in a lot of ways. It gives me a lot of things to work with -- one thing in particular, protecting the offensive boards a lot better.
"I'm not big on statistics," Thompson said, "but we have always played well in February. We've lost ball games to teams that were far worse than UTEP. . . . Any time you lose, it gives you more leverage as a coach to emphasize things. And hopefully we can turn this into a positive thing."
From all appearances, Georgetown still is one of the best five teams in the country. UTEP Coach Don Haskins, who won his 450th career game, said his team played as well as it possibly could.
Part of what Thompson liked about playing UTEP was the adverse road conditions. "We came here because we felt this was a good place, where the fans would get involved in the game, and that this was a good game to get us primed and ready for the league," Thompson said.
It also was good for Georgetown to play a team near its own caliber in defense. The Hoyas, who have been limiting teams to 35 percent shooting from the field, were the No. 1 team in the nation in that category.
But the Miners were No. 2, and they held the Hoyas to 38 percent shooting. "Nothing they did really surprised us," Thompson said. "We knew they were a good team."
It probably didn't surprise Thompson, either, that his team can be vulnerable on the boards.
Until Friday, Reggie Williams, Michael Jackson and David Wingate had been shooting very well from the perimeter. Now Georgetown will try to find out who can help center Ralph Dalton inside.
"I've coached basketball for a long time," he said, "and I've never had an undefeated team. Although I don't like losing, I've never felt we haven't gained something from a defeat.
"We're a good ball club, and we will be a good ball club when it counts."