WASHINGTON, D.C. — In many ways it was Duke's most important game of the season, and it went spectacularly awry.
The eighth-ranked Blue Devils were playing at No. 7 Georgetown in what might be their only game against a top-10 opponent all season. Some national media were in town to evaluate both teams, and the president and vice president were watching from courtside.
Duke wasn't good enough to rise to the moment as its defense crumbled in an 89-77 loss Saturday afternoon at the Verizon Center. Led by guard Chris Wright, who was 8-for-9 from the field and scored 21 points, Georgetown shot 71.7 percent from the field (33-for-46).
It was the best field goal shooting performance by a Duke opponent since at least 1996, according to research by The Associated Press. UCLA, with a 73.3-percent effort in 1965, holds the record for the best shooting against the Blue Devils.
"They were just able to do whatever they wanted," Duke forward Kyle Singler said of Georgetown. "They were just sharper with everything, offensively and defensively."
The crowd of 20,039 had an extra buzz because President Barack Obama entered the arena shortly before the national anthem and sat on the sideline opposite the Georgetown bench. Vice President Joe Biden joined Obama shortly after tipoff, and they stayed for all but the final 75 seconds.
They didn't miss much by leaving early because Georgetown (16-4) dispatched Duke early, leading by as much as 23 points. The Hoyas spread the floor with their Princeton-inspired offense, beating the Blue Devils on backdoor cuts and drives.
Greg Monroe, the 6-foot-11 center from New Orleans who grew up a Duke fan, used his ball-handling skills to drive past the Blue Devils' big men for 21 points and five assists. Monroe was disappointed last season when foul trouble - including a controversial technical foul call when he was on the bench - limited him to 28 minutes and 12 points last season in a loss at Duke.
"It was exciting," Monroe said of Saturday's win. "The crowd was pumped up. Obama was there. It was exciting and 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."
Duke needed this game, too. A win would have put the Blue Devils in the discussion for a No. 1 seed for an NCAA Tournament regional with February approaching.
The blowout loss made it extremely unlikely that Duke or anybody else in the ACC will secure a No. 1 seed. Nolan Smith led the Blue Devils with 19 points. Singler scored 18 and Jon Scheyer added 17, but Duke shot just 37.1 percent from the field.
"We could never match their emotion," said Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski. "Their 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."
Consecutive 3-pointers by Scheyer and Smith to start the second half cut into what had been a 46-33 halftime lead. Krzyzewski gestured to the players on the bench to try to fire them up.
But Singler missed a hurried 3-point attempt and turned it over twice, and the Blue Devils never were able to recover.
"Georgetown came out ready to play from the get-go," Smith said. "They hit us first. They played harder, and they put a full 40-minute game together and just played a terrific game."
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