- The Washington Times - Friday, January 10, 2003

Georgetown made Dick Vitale a believer. The blue-and-gray bandwagon pulled up to the door of storied Cameron Indoor Stadium, and Vitale jumped aboard. Next stop, the Hilltop.
All season ESPN's jive-talking color analyst has praised the Big East's balance this season, with No.3 Connecticut, No.5 Notre Dame, No.6 Pittsburgh, and unranked Boston College and Syracuse leading the way.
No mention of the Hoyas.
Vitale's tune changed Wednesday night in Durham, N.C. Nearing the end of top-ranked Duke's hard-fought 93-86 victory over Georgetown, Vitale questioned on national television whether the No.1 Blue Devils could beat Georgetown on a neutral court and with Mike Sweetney, the Hoyas' preseason All-American forward, not in foul trouble.
Vitale added that Georgetown will be a force in the Big East and is not a team you want to see in March. It's doubtful that Duke would disagree.
The nation's No.1 team survived a major scare in its own building, where the Blue Devils are 164-9 against non-conference opponents under coach Mike Krzyzewski, but Duke had to overcome its first halftime deficit (44-41) of the season.
Unfazed by Duke's raucous crowd, the Hoyas dictated how the game was going to be played. A superb second half by Duke point guard Chris Duhon (seven assists after intermission) and Sweetney's absence because of foul trouble, saved Duke from losing its first game in 10 this season.
Afterward, the mighty Blue Devils sounded more like a team that escaped than one that won by seven.
"[Georgetown] was very good, very physical, very strong," said Blue Devils freshman forward Shelden Williams, who finished with 15 points and a career-high 11 rebounds. "They were all athletic, and it did us some good playing against a team that's very athletic and stronger than we are."
Added Duhon: "I think if we weren't together, we'd have lost this game."
Krzyzewski praised the Blue Devils' "sixth man," their fans, for helping pull out the win. But the famed Cameron Crazies had to muster everything in their arsenal because the Hoyas were not intimidated.
"Our students were amazing they were a huge, huge help," Krzyzewski said. "Cameron was hungry tonight, and that's the way this team needs Cameron to be. The students responded in beautiful fashion."
Georgetown, which led 48-43 early in the second half, trailed 68-63 after a 3-pointer from Gerald Riley with 10:33 left.
"We did not want to come close we wanted to win that game," Georgetown coach Craig Esherick said.
Now the task for Esherick and the Hoyas is how to protect Sweetney from foul trouble. Both of Georgetown's losses have come on the road with Sweetney, Georgetown's leading scorer (20.2) and rebounder (8.8), picking up quick fouls. Esherick said playing better team defense is a start in keeping the power forward on the floor at all times.
"We've got to help out when his man has the ball and stop penetration," Esherick said. "Too often, Mike has to step out and block shots."
This loss should help the Hoyas, especially come NCAA tournament time. They proved to themselves they can play with the top team in the country in the most hostile environment. With Big East play opening Sunday against surprising West Virginia (9-3, 1-0 Big East) at MCI Center, the Duke loss should serve as motivation for the Hoyas.
Also, the Hoyas need 12 more wins to reach 20 for the season and avoid the kind of Selection Sunday drama that resulted in the 19-win Hoyas failing to make the Big Dance last season. With 17 regular-season games and the Big East tournament remaining, the Hoyas have a lot of unfinished business.
"Lots of things out of this game can help us if we practice well and learn from them," Esherick said. "I was proud of our effort for 40 minutes."

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