Just as a large sign in the stands proclaimed “exorcism,” this was a night for casting out devils. The No. 1 Blue Devils of Duke were expelled from a sold-out MCI Center on Saturday in an 87-84 thriller that helped shake off any lingering demons still plaguing Georgetown’s historic program. “What a superb performance. They’re so deserving,” Duke Head Coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “If you get beat, you want to get beat by people who earn it, and they really earned it.” The Hoyas (12-4, 3-2 Big East) showed that even if they haven’t reached the top, they are firmly headed in that direction. The team’s relentless, often spectacular performance left Duke (17-1, 5-0 ACC) with its first loss of the season and gave Georgetown its first win over a top-ranked team since Feb. 27, 1985. That, of course, was the famous “sweater game” in which Georgetown knocked off St. John’s under the tutelage of Hall of Fame Head Coach John Thompson Jr. Now his son, John Thompson III, has his first milestone victory in his two-year reign as head coach that has seen a faded legacy revived. “They’re probably still the best team in the country. Today was just our day,” the typically modest younger Thompson said. “Our guys were tough. I think that we made tough plays at both ends of the floor.” The big win came thanks to a stellar first half in which Georgetown shot over 66 percent from the floor while limiting Duke to only 40 percent. While the Blue Devils kept pressuring the outside, the Hoyas found plenty of chances to cut inside for the easy layup. Sophomore guard Jon Wallace kept cool at the point and showed some impressive ball handling, dishing out six assists to one turnover for the game. “Their offense was playing as one, and our defense was not playing as one. As a result, their offense is going to beat our defense, whatever offense they run. It wasn’t the offense so much as the unity of that offense,” Krzyzewski said. Georgetown broke out in the first half with a 10-point run that put the team up 18-8 with 12 minutes left in the half. The Hoyas have often failed to jumpstart their offense early, making them fall behind in the first half. This time, however, Georgetown took an early lead and fought hard to hold on. Duke struck back with a 14-2 run, punctuated by senior guard J.J. Redick’s back-to-back three pointers to steal the lead at 8:07, 22-20. The Hoyas didn’t buckle, but came back with a layup from Wallace to go ahead. It was their time for another streak, racing ahead to a 12-point lead as the Blue Devils struggled to hit their shots. Georgetown rode its wave of success and adrenaline to a surprising 42-28 halftime lead that had the arena in a state of uproar and surprise. The Hoyas came alive thanks to their most cohesive offensive performance this season, with 14 assists for the team and the scoring evenly distributed. Duke fell back on Redick, relying on his phenomenal outside shot to keep them in the game. While the senior guard dropped in four three pointers, he could not compensate for an off-night from senior forward Sheldon Williams and the Duke frontcourt. In one of the most glaring mismatches of the game, Georgetown outscored Duke in the paint 24-8. The Hoyas accomplished this despite substituting sophomore center Roy Hibbert with senior guard Darrel Owens, one of the team’s top perimeter scorers. “You’ve got to stay hungry. We’ve been in the penthouse all season getting room service,” Kzrzyzewski said. “Somebody jammed up the elevator today.” The fans at MCI Center held their breath at the start of the second half, wondering if Georgetown could hold on after such an unexpected first half. The Blue Devils ratcheted up their pressure, switching to full-court press, a move that has tripped up the Hoyas in previous games. While Duke began to hit more shots, Georgetown managed to trade baskets with its opponent to keep its lead in the double digits. Things began to look more ominous as both sophomore forward Jeff Green, who was playing one of his best games this season, and Wallace landed in foul trouble with more than 10 minutes to go in the game. In an intense battle of attrition, the Blue Devils slowly chipped away at the Hoyas’ lead. As the fouls continued, Georgetown looked in danger of letting Duke take the game from the free-throw line. “We stopped cutting hard midway through the second. They force so many turnovers because of their pressure,” Thompson said. “We got stagnant there for a few possessions.” The biggest threat of the game came with four minutes on the clock when Williams sank a layup to bring the score within one basket, 74-72. The Hoyas managed to wiggle out of their bind with a fast break layup from Wallace, as the team picked up a pile of points off long throws that circumvented the Blue Devils’ press. Although Duke continued to put the crunch on Georgetown, especially Redick from inside and outside, the home team remained a step ahead. Although the Blue Devils kept closing the scoring gap, the Hoyas persevered and responded with the same toughness that had gotten them so far. “In the second half, it felt like we played an extra three games,” Owens said. Although the Hoyas did not dazzle from the free-throw line, the Blue Devils could not hit the shots at the right moment to draw even. When Bowman scrambled for the ball after Paulus lost control, the signal was sent for pandemonium. “The last nine minutes of the game seemed like 20 days,” Bowman said. “I jumped on the ball, kind of as a sigh of relief.” The students sections burst forth from both ends of the court and flooded the floor. Thompson the elder hugged Thompson the younger and the Hoyas capped an upset that would put the program at the center of national media attention for the first time in a long while. Team play was central to their success, as the Hoyas placed five players in double-digit scoring and combined for 24 assists against 16 turnovers. Bowman led the team with 23 points and eight rebounds, while Green snapped a rough streak in the stats department with 18 points and seven assists. Redick, despite an outstanding 41 points for the game, could not offset Georgetown’s intensity across the board. Williams was the largest no-show for the Blue Devils, falling 14 points short of his season average with a mere four points. “When we don’t match another teams intensity, that doesn’t happen very often but all of the sudden we do `J.J. watching’ where we’re watching J.J. play. We might as well get tickets and sit behind the bench. No one else is doing anything out there,” Krzyzewski said. “But again, if Georgetown’s not playing so darn hard, you can get away with a little bit of that.” In the aftermath, Duke was knocked off the top rung in the polls. The team crashed to No. 2 behind Connecticut as the biggest victim in a weekend of high-profile upsets, including Florida and Pittsburgh, also previously unbeaten. Georgetown landed at No. 21 for its first appearance in the AP poll since Dec. 27, 2001, when the team sat in 20th place. To add to the luster, the Big East has seven nationally ranked teams for the first time in conference history. “I was happy for our seniors. We’ve come close. For that group to win this game, for that group to experience that is special,” Thompson said. After a little time in the wilderness, all was surprisingly right in the world for Hoya fans.

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