Two teams – two programs, for that matter – going in entirely different directions.

That will be the story when the Hoyas and the Cincinnati Bearcats hook up tomorrow at MCI Center, as Georgetown comes into the game standing 13-4 (4-2 Big East) and two games removed from their biggest win in decades, while Cincinnati enters 14-6 (3-3) and losers of four out of their last five.

Georgetown’s recent success has been well documented. Tuesday, the Hoyas set down Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind., in a contest that was far closer than it should have been. After trailing by as many as 15 points in the first half, the Fighting Irish slowly clawed their way back into the game, ultimately forcing overtime on a true Hail Mary of a four-point play by senior guard Colin Falls.

Though far closer than it needed to be, any Big East win on the road is a big one. “We’re in league play now,” Head Coach John Thompson III said. “[The players] know that and, I mean, you look at our conference, there’s a reason people say it’s the best conference. You look top to bottom, it’s not top-heavy. There’s parity up and down the board, and we understand that every night is going to be a tough, tough game.”

And from Georgetown, coming off one of the most historic – and draining – wins in years, it would have been foolish to expect quite a performance on par with their showing against Duke.

Of course, in case you’ve been living under a rock on another planet, Georgetown defeated then-No. 1 Duke, 87-84, on Saturday for their first win against the nation’s top team since February 1985.

Against the Blue Devils, senior forward Brandon Bowman led the way with 23 points, and Jeff Green added 18. Five Hoyas (Bowman, Green, Ashanti Cook, Darrel Owens and Jonathan Wallace) scored in double figures on the afternoon.

For the Hoyas, it was a watershed victory. It was their first win against a No. 1 team since Feb. 27, 1985. It moved them back into the AP Top 25 for the first time since January 2001. And best of all, it showed the country that the Hoyas – and their fans – were for real once again.

Cincinnati, conversely, is moving in the exact opposite direction. A year after firing the face of their program, Bob Huggins, the Bearcats are learning quickly that the Big East is no Conference USA.

Though they started the season 13-2, Cincinnati has fallen upon hard times. It lost at UConn – losing senior guard/forward Armein Kirkland to a torn ACL in the process – fell to Syracuse, was upset by Xavier, and got trounced by Louisville. Its only win in the last five games came against Rutgers, 71-66, last Sunday.

Leading the Bearcats are senior forwards James White and Eric Hicks. White, standing at 6-foot-7, has been their primary scorer, dropping 16.8 per game. Hicks, though 6-foot-6, plays bigger, scoring 14.5 points and grabbing 9.5 rebounds per contest. Freshman point guard Devan Downey has also been one of Cincinnati’s most vital contributors, averaging 13.4 points and four assists.

Contending with Georgetown’s height could be Cincinnati’s biggest issue come tomorrow afternoon. The Hoyas’ starting five – Roy Hibbert, Green, Bowman, Cook and Wallace – stand an average of 6-foot-7, while the Bearcats’ starting unit averages under 6-foot-4.

Whether it is their talent player 6-foot-9 Ronald Allen, who doesn’t start, White or even Hicks that is charged with covering the 7-foot-2 Hibbert, he will need to figure out some way to compensate for the height difference. Indeed, it may be Hicks, the shortest of the three, who may be asked to cover Hibbert anyway. Hicks is widely regarded as one of the most physical players in the Big East.

Cincinnati will be different from the Hoyas’ other opponents in that, unlike Duke, Notre Dame and West Virginia, their offense relies on taking the ball to the basket. While they shoot 43.4 percent from the field, the Bearcats convert just 32.5 percent of their threes.

“That’s the beauty of, or what’s scary about, the Big East,” Thompson said. “There are so many different kinds of teams that every night you have to prepare for something different. . You can’t get into the rhythm of, OK, every night if we do this you can stop them. Cincinnati is a very aggressive team, a team that can get around you and get to the basket.”

For the Hoyas to be successful against the Bearcats, they must improve on the glass. Against the Irish, while they did win the rebounding battle, 45-42, there were a number of instances in which grabbing a key rebound would have removed much of the doubt from the game. Georgetown surrendered 21 offensive boards to Notre Dame, far more than it should have. The Hoyas themselves had 18 offensive rebounds.

“We have to rebound better,” Thompson said. “I’ve said that for two years now. How’s Roy’s rebounding been? It’s probably been fine. It’s something that he probably should focus on a little more – we need him to be better at [it].”

The bottom line for Georgetown, however, is that it simply needs to play smart and to its fullest potential. If the Hoyas can avoid the mental mistakes that have plagued them at times this year – unnecessary fouls, reckless charges and poor shot selection – they should show that they are the more talented team.

“I haven’t looked at them enough to go through exactly what we’ll do. I think that that’s what we have to figure out. I think they are a very good defensive team. They do a lot of different things on defensive, so we just have to execute on offense,” Thompson said.

If the Hoyas can translate their recent success into confidence and not cockiness, the team will take yet another step in the resurrection of Georgetown basketball.

Indeed, there is no indication that they won’t be able to do so. “There’s no difference, you know, even when we weren’t ranked we were working hard and now that we’re ranked, we’re going to continue to work hard to stay ranked,” Owens said.

“But in the Big East, there’s no easy nights. We know every team out there is gunning for us whether if we’re ranked or not. We just need to keep the atmosphere going in terms of fans sticking behind us and the team playing well on the court.”

Georgetown is streaking. Cincinnati is spiraling downward. Saturday, at noon at MCI Center, the Hoyas will look to continue those trends and move one step closer to bringing the fear back to the Hilltop.

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