Stars align as Hoyas top Blue Devils
WASHINGTON -- As the Georgetown players bounded through the hallway to their locker room after their convincing 89-77 upset of No. 7-ranked Duke, somebody yelled, "We're bringing it back!"
The question now is how far back? To the Final Four three seasons ago, or the second round of the NCAA tournament two years ago?
One thing's for sure: This team is better than the one that unraveled and lost in the first round of the NIT last season, and the Hoyas' complete performance against Duke on Saturday went a long way in proving that.
It wasn't just who Georgetown beat, it was the way the Hoyas knocked off Duke: with one of the best shooting performances in school history, on national television, in front of a packed and roaring Verizon Center crowd that included President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden.
"We were more nervous about the guys sitting on the other bench," coach John Thompson III said.
It turned out there wasn't much cause for concern.
Despite a subpar performance earlier this week in a loss to Syracuse, Georgetown is a different team this season. It's "light-years" more mature, Thompson said. The players are more comfortable in the system. And it showed in the program's first true marquee win of the season.
"This group is much different," Thompson said. "I've said that from the beginning. Last year's over. It's done. It comes up all the time. These guys have said it: It's over, it's done. We're a much different team; a much, much different team. That's not to say we're not going to lose games, but we're a much different team."
Just ask Duke.
It was this game last season that sparked a five-game losing streak for the Hoyas. It was the opposite of what happened this season. Last season, Georgetown was coming off a win over Syracuse but fell 76-67 at Duke and won only four more games the rest of the regular season. On Saturday, it seemed the Hoyas couldn't miss. They shot an astounding 71.7 percent from the field -- the best under Thompson, and the highest since 1980.
"We could never match their emotion," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "The place was electric, their team was electric, and they played that way for 40 minutes. We haven't had a team shoot 72 percent against us since I don't know when."
Let's just say it's been a while. March 18, 1984, to be exact. That's how long it's been since Duke allowed an opponent to shoot 70 percent.
But the stars -- Chris Wright, Greg Monroe and Austin Freeman -- were literally aligned. While all three members of the team's top trio have had their turn to carry the Hoyas this season, the team is at its best when they're all in sync, as they were Saturday afternoon. Georgetown is 12-0 this season when all three reach double figures. Against Duke, each of them scored at least 20 points.
"It was exciting, the crowd was pumped up, Obama was there," Monroe said. "We all came up with more energy than usual. Not that we don't normally play with energy, but this game was something that we really wanted to get, and you can see it. We were all over the place defensively and offensively."
Georgetown had 48 points in the paint to Duke's 24 and only relinquished the lead twice. Defensively, Georgetown had nine blocks and forced Duke into uncharacteristic mistakes and 15 turnovers. It's still early in the season, and Krzyzewski wouldn't go so far as to say Georgetown is a legitimate national title contender, though he did say, "they're really good."
"I don't think Georgetown is a powerhouse," Krzyzewski said. "You can't let one game define you either way."
Georgetown didn't; otherwise it would have had a repeat of what happened in its 73-56 conference road loss at Syracuse. If the Hoyas can continue to stay focused -- and Thompson has little doubt they can -- last year's NIT appearance should finally become a distant memory.
"I think that this group can beat any team in the country if we do what we're supposed to do," Thompson said. "And if we don't, we can lose to everyone else on our schedule. That's not the plan. But I think we can beat anyone in the country, and they know that."
Now Duke knows it, too.
Heather Dinich covers college football and college basketball ESPN.com. You can find her ACC football blog here.