Published: Monday, January 30, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, January 31, 2012 01:01
FILE PHOTO: CHRIS BIEN/THE HOYA
Freshman forward Otto Porter scored 14 points in a loss to Pitt Saturday.
No. 14 Georgetown (16-4, 6-3 Big East) welcomes Connecticut (14-6, 4-4 Big East) to Verizon Center tomorrow in a matchup of Big East powers looking to get back on track after losing to unranked opponents last weekend.
The Huskies' situation is somewhat more dire, though, as Head Coach Jim Calhoun's squad is mired in a three-game losing streak and has lost five of its last seven games. The most recent loss — which came at home, against a Notre Dame team Connecticut had beaten soundly just two weeks earlier on the road — sent the Huskies spiraling out of the national rankings.
Unlike Georgetown, Connecticut was tabbed for big things in the preseason, opening the year ranked No. 4 in the country before a surprising loss to Central Florida knocked it down a few spots. The Huskies remained in the top 10 for several weeks after that, but their current skid has pushed them from the top 25 entirely.
Sunday's loss to Notre Dame wasn't without its positives, though, as freshman guard Ryan Boatright returned to action after missing the previous three games — including the win over Notre Dame — as the NCAA investigated his eligibility.
The Illinois native had previously been suspended for the first six games of the season as the NCAA investigated those issues, but has bounced back nicely and is fourth on the team in scoring with 9.8 points per game. Boatright, who plays a sixth-man role similar to that of Georgetown freshman forward Otto Porter, also dishes out 3.4 assists per game and is shooting 48 percent from the floor and 40 percent from behind the arc.
The Hoyas did an uncharacteristically good job of limiting turnovers in their loss to Pittsburgh, but struggled mightily on defense and will be in for a long night if they give up similarly open looks to the more talented Huskies.
"Everyone's performance today, everyone on Georgetown basketball needs to get better," Head Coach John Thompson III said after the game on Saturday.
Playing the role of Pittsburgh senior forward Nasir Robinson — who went 9-for-9 from the floor en route to a career-high 23 points against Georgetown — could be Connecticut center Andre Drummond. The freshman, who is projected by some to be the top pick in the NBA draft this June, is averaging 10 points and nearly eight rebounds a game. He also has 51 blocks on the season.
Drummond anchors a Connecticut defense that ranks sixth in the Big East, allowing just over 62 points per game. The Blue and Gray are no defensive slouches themselves, boasting the second-best scoring defense in the conference at 60 points allowed per game. But the Hoyas will have to contend with sophomore guards Jeremy Lamb and Shabazz Napier, both of whom have stepped into starring roles this year after playing small parts on last year's national championship-winning squad.
Lamb is the better scorer of the two at nearly 18 points per game, while Napier is more of a creator who averages over six assists per game while also scoring more than enough (14.3 ppg) to keep defenses honest.
Stopping Lamb, who, like Drummond, is projected to be top picks in the NBA draft, won't be easy for a Georgetown defense that has allowed more than 65 points six times since the start of conference play.
The Hoyas lost both meetings with the Huskies last year, as they struggled to contain Kemba Walker and Jamal Coombs-McDaniel. Walker is with the Charlotte Bobcats now, though, and Coombs-McDaniel has transferred to Hofstra. Still, Georgetown hasn't beaten them since January 2010, when Austin Freeman exploded for 28 points in the second half of a three-point win.
Of potential concern for the Hoyas is junior forward Hollis Thompson, who pulled a muscle in Georgetown's win over Rutgers and looked out of sorts against Pittsburgh. Thompson made just one shot until an eight-point flurry in the final minute, which brought his point total to 11. If he can't perform like he did in the early season, the Blue and Gray will have to lean heavily on senior guard Jason Clark and senior center Henry Sims to carry the scoring load.
Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. tomorrow night at Verizon Center.