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Men’s Basketball: Irish host hot Georgetown team tonight

Joe Meixell | Tuesday, January 24, 2006

The Georgetown team entering the Joyce Center at 7 p.m. tonight will look familiar. Its roster is strikingly similar to the one that lost a 70-64 decision to Notre Dame on the same floor last February.

But the No. 21 Hoyas (12-4, 3-2 Big East) are coming off an 87-84 upset win over then-No. 1 Duke (17-1) on Saturday. The Irish (10-6, 1-4), on the other hand, are tied with Louisville and Providence for the third worst record in-conference. And Georgetown’s visit means Notre Dame has no time to think about its rough early start, only an opportunity to find out whether it gets better or worse.

The Irish have lost each of their four Big East defeats by no more than six points, including Friday night’s buzzer-beater at Marquette.

“The season can swing on one game and one week,” Irish coach Mike Brey said. “From that standpoint the glass is half full, and we have to keep plugging. If our four losses were by an average of 15 points, I could song and dance you, but we have some issues.

“We’re down to game situations, and we just have to be a little bit better.”

To swing the season this week, Notre Dame must face Georgetown tonight and Villanova (13-2, 4-1) on Saturday in back-to-back home games. The Irish then go on the road Feb. 1 to meet West Virginia, the only undefeated team (5-0) in conference play.

The Hoyas are tied with Cincinnati and St. John’s for the fourth-best Big East record. Playing within the Princeton offense implemented by second-year coach John Thompson III, four Georgetown players sport double-digit scoring averages along a balanced box score.

Senior forward Brandon Bowman leads the Hoyas with 11.9 points per game, followed closely by center Roy Hibbert (11.3 points per game), guard Ashanti Cook (10.3) and forward Jeff Green (10.3).

Bowman had 23 points, eight rebounds and three blocks in the win over Duke.

Brey said he does not anticipate having to drastically alter his lineup to deal with a larger Hoyas team. But the coach said he knows this Georgetown team well from last year’s win and additional observation, and the players know defense will be a factor against a hot offensive team.

“If you look at their team, they shot 60-some percent against a good Duke defense,” Irish point guard Chris Quinn said. “It’s definitely something we have to take a look at.”

Notre Dame is 1-1 at home in Big East play, its lone conference win being a 92-77 victory over Providence Jan. 14.

But the Irish have not played at the Joyce Center since the return of the University’s students.

Brey thinks a more normal game atmosphere can only help his team, despite their opponents’ strengths.

“[Georgetown is] the sexiest team in the country,” Brey said. “I just hope we can hang in there with them. They’re really good. They’re really hot. They’re really confident. I’m just happy our home atmosphere will be kind of our normal atmosphere.”

Notre Dame sits above only DePaul (1-5), who beat the Irish 73-67 on Jan. 7, and South Florida in league standings. Louisville and Providence are each 1-4 and tied with the Irish in-conference.