WASHINGTON (AP)—John Thompson III got an embrace from his Hall of Fame father as the fans stormed the court, madly celebrating the first Georgetown victory over a No. 1 team in 21 years.
“That’s my child,” the elder Thompson said. “I love my child. After all he’s had to go through, he deserves this.”
The Hoyas finally have a signature victory in the new Thompson era, Saturday’s 87-84 stunner over top-ranked Duke.
Backdoor layups and stubborn defense in the paint produced a 16-point second-half lead and the Hoyas withstood a furious late rally, ending when jubilant senior Brandon Bowman jumped on a loose ball at the final buzzer.
“We’ve come close, we’ve been there, we’ve been at the other end of some lopsided defeats,” said Thompson III, in his second season since replacing Craig Esherick. “And for that group to win this game, for that group to experience that, is special.”
The Blue Devils (17-1) had matched their best start in school history, but their first 18-0 was thwarted by Hoyas team that shot 61 percent and held Shelden Williams to a season-low four points.
“We’ve been in the penthouse all season, having room service,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “Somebody jammed up the elevator today.”
With Duke going down, No. 9 Pittsburgh losing to St. John’s and No. 2 Florida falling at Tennessee, a day that began with three unbeaten Division I teams ended with none.
J.J. Redick matched his career high with 41 points, but he was mostly a one-man show. Krzyzewski said bad communication was to blame for the inability to stop Georgetown’s backdoor moves, and the inevitable Duke rally simply came too late.
“When we don’t match another team’s intensity—that doesn’t happen very often—then all of a sudden we do ‘J.J.-watching,’ where we’re watching J.J. play,” Krzyzewski said. “We might as well get tickets and sit behind the bench. No one is doing anything out there.”
Brandon Bowman scored 23 points, and Jeff Green had 18 for the Hoyas (12-4), who had lost nine straight against ranked opponents and hadn’t beaten a No. 1 team since the infamous “Sweater Game” against St. John’s on Feb. 27, 1985. The elder Thompson wore a striped sweater to match St. John’s coach Lou Carnesecca’s lucky sweater, and the Hoyas won 85-69.
The younger Thompson was at that game, “second-guessing his father,” according to Dad. Thompson III gets all the credit for this one, keeping a level head and persevering in a season in which his wife has battled breast cancer.
“Coach Thompson has been preaching since he got the job that with hard work, anything can happen,” said Darrel Owens, who scored 13 points on 6-for-8 shooting. “And I think today you saw that hard work pay off.”
Thompson III was typically modest in victory. He said Georgetown’s next game against Notre Dame was probably more important than this one because it’s a Big East conference game. Asked what beating Duke means to his program, he said: “Give me a minute or two to digest it and then we can start talking about grandiose things.”
Sensing an upset, the Georgetown fans roared like never before in the MCI Center. The Hoyas have sold out the building only twice—both against Duke— since the building opened in 1997. The crowd of 20,035 was nearly all Blue Devil blue in the upper deck and was more than triple the Hoyas’ MCI Center average.
But Duke methodically cut the into the deficit in the second half, pulling within two on Williams’ layup with 4:03 remaining. Georgetown’s Jonathan Wallace answered with a reverse layup, and Owens capped a chaotic sequence with a fast-break dunk to get the lead back to six. Bowman’s fast-break dunk made the score 82-74 with 1:15 left, but poor Hoyas’ free-throw shooting—7-for-12 over the final 1:46—gave Duke a chance to tie on its final possession.
Instead of getting the ball to Redick, however, freshman point guard Greg Paulus was dribbling near midcourt and got stripped by Wallace with 4 seconds left.
“It was a little surprising that we actually end up being a one possession game and when you think about the last five or six minutes and the amount of bonehead plays we made,” Redick said. “It’s just a byproduct of trying to come back and expend so much energy trying to get back in the game.”
Duke had not trailed by double digits at any point this season before Saturday. Duke led only once in the game, at 22-20.
Otherwise, the first-half offense highlights were provided by Georgetown. A 19-5 run that included five layups gave the Hoyas a 42-28 lead after shooting 67 percent in the first half.
Georgetown’s assist-to-turnover ratio was 24-to-16. Only one other team, Valparaiso, had more assists than turnovers against the Blue Devils this season.
Williams did achieve one milestone. He got the two blocks he needed to join Tim Duncan and Ralph Sampson as the only ACC players with 1,500 points, 1,000 rebounds and 350 blocks.