- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 29, 2005

When surging Georgetown takes the floor tonight at No.8 Boston College, it will be facing a familiar foe.

“They don’t make mistakes,” Hoyas coach John Thompson III said of the Eagles (17-0, 6-0 Big East), one of only two unbeaten teams in the nation. “They are very well coached. They have one of the better post players in this league. They take quality shots. And they don’t beat themselves.”

Sound like anybody else? Thompson could well be talking about his own team as Georgetown (13-5, 5-2) rolls into Chestnut Hill trying to build on its best Big East start in nearly a decade.

Similarities between the programs abound. The Eagles and Hoyas aren’t just the league’s two biggest surprises, they might be the nation’s most startling early-season success stories.

Thompson and Boston College coach Al Skinner top everybody’s midseason list as favorites for national coach of the year honors.

Both teams feature a pair of relatively unheralded prepsters who have developed into superb forwards. The Eagles are led by junior space-eater Craig Smith (18.6 points, 8.3 rebounds) and shifty swingman Jared Dudley (16.5 points, 7.4 rebounds). The Hoyas counter with spidery junior Brandon Bowman (15.2 points, 7.1 rebounds) and league rookie of the year favorite Jeff Green (13.8 points, 7.4 rebounds).

Like the Hoyas, Boston College runs a complex motion offense predicated on incessant screening, spacing, sharing, patience and shot selection.

“They’re sort of like us in that they really value the ball and don’t give you anything,” Georgetown junior guard Ashanti Cook said of the Eagles, who run a flex offense similar to the versions employed by Maryland and Gonzaga.

Most of all, the two squads share a remarkable resilience and an uncanny combination of poise and potency in the clutch. Neither team is likely to do anything particularly memorable until the shot clock is turned off and the pressure is on.

“We’re at our best under pressure,” said Skinner after the Eagles turned a four-point deficit with three minutes remaining into a 78-75 victory at Providence earlier this week. “These guys have been magic in the moment.”

They’ve had to be after mediocre showings for the better part of 40 minutes in last-second victories over such sleepers as Holy Cross (63-60 in overtime), Yale (82-80 in double overtime) and Kent State (67-65). But lest you think the Eagles are a soft 17-0, consider that their resume also includes a comeback victory at defending national champion Connecticut (75-70).

If Boston College’s 6-0 record in games decided by five points or less or in overtime sounds sublime, the Hoyas might note they have a 4-1 record in such games and boast two victories on last-second shots. Georgetown’s only loss in that category was an overtime defeat at No.4 Syracuse (20-1, 7-0) in a game in which it missed winning in regulation by the tip of Bowman’s size 17 shoe.

“That was a tough one because I thought we had won,” said Thompson, who like everyone else at the Carrier Dome was too focused on the result of the shot to notice that Bowman’s foot was on the 3-point line. “I thought it was a three, and I was on my way to shake [Jim] Boeheim’s hand when I heard Ashanti say, ‘Overtime.’”

After the near upset of the Orange, Bowman received a “conciliatory” call from Smith. Boston College’s big man hails from Los Angeles (Fairfax High School), and he’s fond of calling old friends Bowman and Cook, both of whom attended rival Westchester.

“Craig’s always calling and talking, and there’s not much I can say,” said Bowman of his friendly rivalry with the Eagles’ pivot pounder. “The funny thing is, we always beat those guys in high school. Craig did some things against us, got his, but we always beat them. … Let’s just say I’ve really been looking forward to this game.

“It’s a major opportunity for us because if you beat an undefeated team at their place, that will show people something. The buzz that’s started will really get loud then. I just can’t wait because this game is a measuring stick to see just how far back Georgetown basketball has come.”

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