DURHAM, N.C. | Georgetown failed to respond to a vintage dose of Cameron chaos.
The No. 13 Hoyas couldn't stop Duke junior slasher Gerald Henderson or rebound from a questionable second-half technical foul call, falling 76-67 to the third-ranked Blue Devils amid the unparalleled din of Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Finally finished with a diabolical stretch of post-Christmas games that saw them face five top-13 teams in six games, the Hoyas will look to bounce back against West Virginia on Thursday at Verizon Center.
"I grew up basically in Villanova, [Pa.]," said Henderson, who scorched the Hoyas for a game-high 23 points on 10-for-15 shooting. "I've been to Georgetown-Villanova games at the Pavilion. I've watched them play, and I know what kind of intensity the Big East brings. Growing up around that, it was fun to play them and beat them."
Propelled by Henderson's 17 first-half points, Duke (16-1) raced to a 44-29 lead less than two minutes after intermission before the Hoyas (12-4) fought back behind a lineup that included Jason Clark (nine points) and Omar Wattad in place of struggling standard backcourt starters Chris Wright and Jessie Sapp.
Nearly silencing the boisterous sellout crowd of 9,314 Cameron Crazies, the Hoyas ripped off a 13-2 run behind junior forward DaJuan Summers (21 points, seven rebounds) and freshman standout Greg Monroe (12 points, six rebounds, four assists), closing the Duke lead to 46-42 when Summers made one of two free throws with 15:34 remaining.
At that point, Georgetown coach John Thompson III pulled a foul-strapped Monroe from the lineup in lieu of Henry Sims. Monroe had collected three fouls in the opening half (two offensive), so Thompson attempted to protect his star with a little early offense-defense substitution. Little did Thompson know how the decision would backfire less than 30 seconds later.
With Georgetown suddenly owning all the momentum, Summers stole the ball on Duke's following possession and fed driving sophomore Austin Freeman, who was smothered in the lane by Duke's Kyle Singler. When Freeman's layup attempt went awry and Singler collected the rebound and was fouled in the process by Sims, Thompson erupted, unloading on referee John Cahill.
A longtime Big East official, Cahill issued a stern warning to Thompson and then turned his back on the Georgetown bench to record Sims' foul at the scorer's table at the 15:08 mark with the Hoyas still trailing by four. Whiplashing around moments later after clearly hearing some invective, Cahill walked straight back to the Georgetown bench, pointed directly at Monroe and whistled him for a technical foul.
"I didn't say anything," Monroe said. "A lot of people were saying things. I don't believe he was really looking at the bench, but I know I definitely didn't say anything."
After the game, two different fans fingered the same man behind the Georgetown bench as the source of the comments which riled Cahill. The man, presumably a Georgetown fan, sat directly behind Monroe in a yellow Pittsburgh Steelers cap but refused to give his name to reporters.
The result was catastrophic for the Hoyas. It halted the Georgetown run and send Duke's Jon Scheyer to the free throw line for a pair of drought-snapping tosses, and it meant Monroe had picked up his fourth foul and had to remain on the Georgetown bench.
"It kind of stopped the game," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "We sank two free throws, and maybe we righted the ship a little there."
Predictably, Duke used the momentum-breaker and Monroe's absence to spurt ahead 61-45 in the next five minutes, effectively driving a knife into Georgetown's upset hopes.
"The technical was a key part in the game - let's not run from that," Thompson said. "On top of the free throws, Greg now has four [fouls], and it clearly altered how they attacked us and what we could do. But that's not the reason that we ended up with less points than they did. ... They outplayed us. It's a very disappointing loss for a lot of different reasons. But we have to move on."
Thompson kept his angst in check in his postgame news conference, but it was obvious he was as disappointed by his team's reaction to the suspect call as the call itself.
Wright and Sapp (a combined three points) struggled against the team's highest-ranked nonconference opponent to date (Sapp opened guarding Henderson), and the Hoyas reacted to Cahill's call with a series of defeatist possessions on the defensive end. All told, Duke shot 48.3 percent from the field, the highest allowed by the Hoyas since a 90-78 loss to Tennessee in the team's fourth game of the season.