LANDOVER -- The pieces seemed to be falling in place for the Georgetown University basketball team. The 18th-ranked Hoyas had won their past two games, coming from 16 points behind on the road to beat Pittsburgh and slowing it down to a crawl to upset fifth-ranked St. John's.
Moreover, Alonzo Mourning seemed finally to be getting back into the flow after missing more than a month with a strained left arch. In the first 10 minutes yesterday against DePaul, the junior forward and Dikembe Mutombo, Georgetown's 7-foot-2 senior center, had helped the Hoyas build a 12-point lead.
And then the pieces, as well as Georgetown, fell apart.
The comfortable lead over the Blue Demons was cut in half by halftime, and was gone entirely a little more than five minutes into the second half. By the time DePaul was done, a 24-7 run had turned into a 72-63, nationally televised upset of Georgetown before 12,379 at the Capital Centre.
"I thought DePaul did a great job putting pressure on the ball, especially in the second half," said Georgetown coach John Thompson, whose teams had beaten the Blue Demons the past six seasons. "Their guards did a great job controlling the tempo, and that contributed a lot to us losing our concentration."
Despite the best collective offensive performance by its big men since Mourning returned two weeks ago -- Mutombo had 22 points and eight rebounds, while Mourning had 18 points and five boards -- Georgetown (13-6) lost because its freshman guards played like, uh, freshmen.
When point guard Joey Brown came out with his fourth personal foul, there were 13 minutes, 44 seconds left in the game. The Hoyas, who had led at halftime, 30-24, trailed by 38-37. DePaul (12-7) then scored 10 straight points, six of them by junior forward David Booth. Two of Booth's baskets came after he made successive steals.
"That [the steals] made us believe," said DePaul coach Joey Meyer, whose team overcame a scoreless stretch of more than seven minutes in the first half. "When we got the lead, we started to believe that we could beat them."
Without Brown's offensive leadership, the Hoyas looked utterly confused. Freshman guard Charles Harrison, who was hot Wednesday against the Redmen, was 3-for-15 from the field and committed six of Georgetown's 19 turnovers. Brown (0-for-4) didn't score in 22 minutes. Neither did Lamont Morgan (0-for-2).
"You have to be into the game all the time. You can't let up at all," said Harrison. "That's what happened to us today. They played a good defensive game."
Despite its offensive malaise to start the second half -- no field goals in the first 6:16 -- Georgetown's sluggish defense ultimately caused its downfall. Without Brown, the DePaul guards were able to get the ball to Booth (18 of his team-high 22 points in the second half).
But Booth had plenty of help from his unheralded teammates. While he was being shut down in the first half, sophomore forward Terry Davis scored 10 of his 13 points to keep the Demons in the game. DePaul out-rebounded Georgetown, 35-28, including 14-11 on the offensive boards.
"It's a really good win for our program," said Booth, who scored on a variety of mid-range jump shots and short hooks over Mourning and Mutombo (two blocks each). "We've had a tough time winning against a good team in the last couple of years. This showed that we can do it."
The victory -- the biggest for the Blue Demons since their upset of No. 4 Louisville last season -- will improve their chances at a bid to the National Collegiate Athletic Association tournament after last year's 18-14 team was snubbed.
The win also was an important one for Meyer, who since replacing his father, Ray, as DePaul's coach seven years ago, had not beaten Georgetown. "I knew sooner or later that I was going to beat Thompson," said Meyer. "I thought I'd be 85 before I did it."
However unsettling the defeat was for Georgetown -- and it was, considering the team's recent momentum -- Thompson could manage a small joke. It came along the sideline with about a minute left.
"I yelled at Joey, 'I'm glad we didn't let you in the Big East,' " said Thompson, referring to DePaul's unsuccessful attempt at joining a few years back. "I was one of the people who wanted them in."
Maybe that's where things fell apart for Georgetown yesterday. Maybe the Hoyas just should have locked the doors.
NOTES: Georgetown will play again Wednesday night against Providence at home . . . The Hoyas had only three steals, to 10 for the Blue Demons.