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January 21, 2006A second half rally couldn't save Duke from tasting defeat for the first time this season as the Blue Devils fell to Georgetown 87-84 at MCI Center in Washington, D.C.
Trailing by double digits for most of the second half, Duke had opportunities down the stretch to draw even, but could not avoid costly turnovers.
After Georgetown's Jonathan Wallace missed a free throw that would have sealed the game with 6.5 seconds to go, Duke's Greg Paulus pushed the ball down the floor, but had it stripped before he could find an open shooter and time expired.
The Hoyas battered Duke's defense all afternoon with backdoor cuts and fastbreak runouts. Georgetown recorded assists on 21 of its 32 field goals in the game, while Duke's offense relied almost completely on senior J.J. Redick.
Redick nearly carried the Devils to their 18th straight win, but his 41 points weren't enough to get Duke over the hump.
Georgetown used its long athleticism to frustrate Duke on both ends of the floor. The Hoyas proved too tough in the halfcourt for Duke to match up with, and Jeff Green teamed with Brandan Bowman to form a two headed monster that Duke couldn't contain.
The duo combined for 41 points and seven assists as Duke, minus defensive ace DeMarcus Nelson due to injury, could never find a quality matchup.
Hoya point guard Jonathan Wallace got the best of Paulus in their matchup as well. Though Paulus scored 14 points, he had a few mental lapses that ultimately proved costly.
In an effort to spark Duke back from its deficit, Paulus threw some ill advised passes in the open court and dribbled away from Redick's side of the floor when Duke needed a three on the last play of the game.
Wallace was ultra steady at the controls of the Georgetown attack. He distributed seven assists as the Hoyas worked through Duke's defense like clockwork. At halftime, the Hoyas were shooting better than 70 percent from the floor.
Georgetown put five players in double figures, while Duke's second main weapon went silent on the offensive end.
Playing with foul trouble all afternoon, Shelden Williams was limited to just five points and five rebounds on 2-of-9 shooting from the floor.
It wasn't a lack of offense that doomed the Devils on Saturday though. It was the defensive shortcomings that provided a clear blueprint for how to control Duke.
The Devils have averaged forcing 20 turnovers per game. The Hoyas had 21 assists and only 10 turnovers. Duke is used to shutting down opponents from three point range, and while Georgetown only hit six long range shots, they shot 43 percent from downtown, well above the number Duke normally allows.
It was the constant cutting to the basket that made the difference, however. Bowman, Ashanti Cook, Green, Wallace, and Darrel Owens executed Coach John Thompson III's offense to near perfection.
For Duke, the growing talk of a potential run at an undefeated season will now cease, which may be a blessing for a team that has had several close calls so far this season.
It remains to be seen what will happen to Duke in the rankings. Pittsburgh also fell from the ranks of the unbeaten with a loss at St. John's on Saturday while undefeated and second ranked Florida is on the road tonight at Tennessee. Third ranked UConn is also on the road tonight at Louisville.