- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 22, 2006

The blue and gray beast is back.

Georgetown stunned previously unbeaten and top-ranked Duke 87-84 yesterday at MCI Center, unquestionably the signature win in John Thompson III’s two-year tenure.

“They’re probably still the best team in the country, but it was just our day,” an understated Thompson said after leading his charges to the school’s first victory against a No.1 team since 1985 against St. John’s. “Those guys are obviously pretty happy back there in the locker room, and I’m glad for them. … We showed a lot of guts today.”

The Hoyas (12-4) didn’t just beat the Blue Devils (17-1), the college game’s perennial bully. They trailed just once, beating the Blue Devils in nearly every category — outhustling, outshooting, outpassing and outrebounding a squad featuring All-American locks J.J. Redick and Shelden Williams.

“Congratulations to Georgetown. They are superb,” gracious Duke maestro Mike Krzyzewski said. “I can say we didn’t do this or didn’t do that, but I think the story of the game is what they did.

“We could not match their intensity for a whole half. That doesn’t happen. Then all of a sudden we do J.J. watching. … John and his kids played with all their heart for 40 minutes — a very, very impressive performance.”

Frankly, if not for a superhuman effort by Redick, who had 41 points, the game could have been a rout. The 6-foot-4 senior from Roanoke single-handedly kept the Blue Devils in the game, hitting 12 of 24 shots from the field (including six 3-pointers) despite a relentless defensive effort from the Hoyas.

“You wonder how you’re going to stop him, and you’re not,” Thompson said, still shaking his head at Redick’s play nearly an hour after the game. “He’s too good. He makes tough contested shots. We did a decent job on him, and he scored 41.”

But on the game’s deciding possession, the Blue Devils failed to find their one-man arsenal. After Redick and some nerve-rattled Hoyas foul shooting helped Duke trim a 14-point halftime deficit to two on a slashing bucket by guard Sean Dockery, the Blue Devils sent Georgetown guard Jonathan Wallace to the line with 6.5 seconds remaining.

Wallace, who had 12 points and six assists, made the first but the second rimmed out, and all 20,035 fans in attendance immediately found Redick as Duke freshman point guard Greg Paulus sprinted upcourt. In fact, Paulus might have been the only person in the building who didn’t immediately look to Redick, who was being face-guarded by Georgetown’s D.J. Owens, who finished with 13 points and five assists.

“They went away from him, thank God,” Owens said.

Instead, Paulus raced over halfcourt, cut toward the lane and lost the ball amid a whirl of defenders. Georgetown senior Brandon Bowman, who led the Hoyas with 23 points and eight rebounds, dived on the ball at the top of the circle and smothered it as the final two seconds ticked off the clock.

“[Paulus] played a [heck] of a game, but I told him [afterward] he has to find J.J. because the guy had like a zillion points,” Krzyzewski said. “We put ourselves in a position to win, but if we did it would have been fortunate. The team that deserved to win won. If you get beat, you want to get beat by people who earn it, and they really earned it.”

The scene was surreal as the final horn sounded on Duke’s perfect season with Bowman pounding the floor in ecstasy and the crowd roaring its approval. Years of mediocrity and disappointment on the Hilltop were swallowed by the cathartic joy of the ultimate regular-season win. The student section flooded onto the floor to gambol with their heroes in celebratory chaos.

One middle-aged Georgetown fan sat transfixed in her front-row seat, tears of joy streaming down her cheeks. A pair of grown men just behind her took turns lifting one another off the ground with bear hugs.

John Thompson II, the Hall of Famer and original architect of the Georgetown program, found his son, hugged him and whispered, “I love you,” beaming with pride.

The victory no doubt will boost the Hoyas into the Top 25 for the first time in more than four years. It gives the Hoyas a monstrous lift in confidence as they head into the second half of the schedule, which begins with a road trip to Notre Dame on Tuesday. And given the parity of the expanded Big East, it gives them the kind of marquee victory few, if any, teams in the league will be able to boast come NCAA tournament selection time.

“It’s not just that we won. It’s the way we controlled the game,” said senior guard Ashanti Cook, who finished with 17 points and four assists. “It tells us we can play with the best.”

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