- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 22, 2006

Georgetown’s welcome-back victory against No. 1 Duke yesterday spelled vindication for the program on a couple of levels — the program’s long-suffering seniors and its second-year coach.

The senior class, which had never beaten a top-15 team, helped complete an impressive wire-to-wire victory against the previously undefeated Blue Devils. The Hoyas’ senior trio of Brandon Bowman, Ashanti Cook and D.J. Owens had spent their entire careers battling criticism and inconsistency in search of a premier win.

“We’ve got that monkey off our back,” said Cook, an off-guard from Inglewood, Calif., after the trio totaled 53 points, 10 assists and 13 rebounds in the 87-84 win.

The seniors still could be the first Georgetown class to fail to reach the NCAA tournament in the Thompsons’ era (1973-present). And though that account is still far from settled, a mere .500 finish in the conference, which would put the Hoyas at 18-10 overall, could be enough to propel them to their first NCAA bid since 2001.

“It’s too early in the year to start making grandiose statements about what this victory means for Georgetown or the Big East or whomever,” Thompson said. “It’s a good win against a terrific team. I think it gives our guys a bit of confidence. I tell our guys everyday that we can beat any team in the country, and we can still lose to a lot of them. That’s still where we are right now, but I think we’re moving in the right direction.”

And that includes the seniors, who routinely have been bashed by both fans and the media for their erratic intensity level, particularly relative to the starting sophomore tandem of Jonathan Wallace and Jeff Green.

Yesterday, the three finished 1-2-3 in the box score in minutes played and set the tone for the most focused performance by a Georgetown team in at least a decade. Bowman (27 points, eight rebounds), often mocked for his dalliance with the NBA Draft last spring, led the team in scoring and rebounding.

Owens put his shooter’s ego on the shelf and dedicated the entire game to chasing Duke All-American J.J. Redick. The latter’s 41-point eruption is more a testament to his brilliance than an indictment of Owens’ effort.

And Cook chipped in 17 points, four assists and a world of ball-handling against the merciless Blue Devils’ press.

“I’m happy for our seniors,” John Thompson III said after the defining win of his young career. “For that group to win this game and experience that is special.”

The victory also vindicated Craig Esherick’s ouster and Thompson’s hiring.

The latter answered questions about his work ethic and attitude last year, when the team was one of the pleasant surprises of the season. Thompson then answered any concerns about his recruiting prowess this summer, locking down a pair of top-25 national recruits in Vernon Macklin and DaJuan Summers. And now he has answered critics who were waiting for him to win a big game.

Thompson might have outcoached one of the game’s masters yesterday. Thompson’s decision to move Georgetown forward Jeff Green out of the paint and to the top of the Hoyas’ offense sparked a slew of backdoor cuts (six in the first half alone) by pulling Williams (last season’s national defensive player of the year) away from his shot-blocking comfort zone. The move to an awkward space also might have contributed to Williams’ woeful offensive game. The 6-foot-10, 250-pounder came in averaging 18.4 points but finished with only four points on 2-for-8 shooting.

Thanks to at least 10 backdoor baskets, the Hoyas shot 61.5 percent for the game and finished with 24 assists on 32 field goals, vindicating a Princeton offense that occasionally has looked stagnant this season. And all of the Hoyas were surprised Mike Krzyzewski didn’t ease off his incredibly tight pressure defense after the Hoyas burned the Blue Devils time and again on back cuts.

“Lots of teams in the Big East have been giving us wide open 3s and taking away the backdoor,” Owens said. “They did the opposite, and we really took advantage of our cutters.”

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