After stunner over Maryland, AU tries to repeat 1982 win over Georgetown Print
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Friday, 28 December 2007 16:25
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 WASHINGTON (AP) -A few days after beating Maryland for the first time in 80 years, the Eagles from American University reassembled this week for their first practice following a short Christmas break.
``I wrote on the board the score '88-51,''' coach Jeff Jones said. ``I said, 'Does anybody have any idea what that was?'''
The coach then revealed the answer: 88-51 was the final score of the Kansas victory over Ohio earlier this month. Why care about that? Because Ohio was coming off an upset win at Maryland, just as American is doing this week.
``I wasn't trying to rain on anybody's parade,'' Jones said. ``Maryland was a good win, but it's one game.''
It will take a lot of rain to ruin the excitement that has followed one of the biggest wins in school history. Maryland had beaten its unheralded neighbor 14 straight times before the Eagles' 67-59 shocker at College Park last weekend. Jones still hasn't had time to respond to all the messages from fans and alumni.
Now, however, comes the chance for a sequel, in more ways than one.
It's been 25 years since the undisputed all-time greatest AU victory - 62-61 over Georgetown on Dec. 15, 1982. The Hoyas, coached by John Thompson, were ranked No. 5 at the time and were in the midst of the Patrick Ewing era, which included a national championship in 1984. Anyone who saw the game will never forget the site of guard Gordon Austin driving the lane to make a looping shot over Ewing; the ball took a high bounce off the rim before falling into the net.
On Saturday, the Eagles will visit a No. 8 Georgetown team featuring a lineup that includes Patrick Ewing Jr. The coach is Thompson's son, John Thompson III.
``As nice as the win over Maryland felt - and it's well-deserved - that one's over,'' Jones said. ``And we've got an even bigger hurdle in front of us.''
Any appearance on a big stage is welcome for American, often the ignored stepchild among Division I schools in the Washington area. Maryland and Georgetown steal the headlines whether they are playing well or poorly. George Washington has been to three consecutive NCAA tournaments. George Mason still has a glow from its Final Four appearance in 2006, and Howard is a popular member of the Mid-Eastern Atlantic Conference, which consists of historically black colleges.
The Eagles, by comparison, have never been to the NCAA Division I tournament. Their only NCAA berth came in 1960, when they were in Division II. Even the move from Colonial Athletic Association to the lower-rated Patriot League in 2001 has failed to get AU into the big show.
The win over Maryland helps AU's profile, but it also must be noted that the Terrapins (6-6) are having an off year. American's record is an unspectacular 7-5, including losses to Morgan State and Maryland-Baltimore County.
So can the Eagles even entertain a realistic thought of beating Georgetown?
``We've got to be near perfect to even have a chance,'' Jones said.
Jones said it's hard to use the 1982 win as motivation for his players because it's ``beyond their scope of history.''
``They're aware that it happened, and just knowing that that kind of thing can happen is a good thing,'' Jones said. ``But as I was telling them: 'Gordon Austin probably won't be playing for us, and Patrick Ewing Sr. won't be playing for them.' Other than knowing that was a great moment and it can be done, I don't know how much we can take beyond that.''
As for the Hoyas, their coach did not mention 1982 at all during this week's practice. Thompson doesn't even remember the game, although he is pretty sure he was there with his father.
``We approach every game understanding that we have to play well and that it's an important game for every team we play,'' Thompson said, ``so I don't need to reference what happened 25 years ago. The players realize that if we don't dot our i's and cross our t's and come ready to play, everybody on our schedule can beat us.''
A win over the Hoyas would certainly give the Eagles unprecedented bragging rights. They also have a win over Howard, so they would be 3-0 against the local rivals - worthy of the unofficial title of best team in the area.
``That would be the least of our worries,'' Jones said. ``That would be nice if it happened, but we'll see.''
 

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