Georgetown-Louisville Preview

Louisville must face a red-hot, highly ranked team to open Big

East play, and this might not even be the fourth-ranked Cardinals’

biggest challenge of the week.

Taking a perfect record into a cross-state showdown against

their archrival won’t be easy because they would first have to

knock off No. 12 Georgetown on Wednesday night.

“One thing I’ve learned to do with my age, I really don’t look

ahead,” Louisville coach Rick Pitino said.

The former Kentucky coach certainly isn’t letting his team look

ahead to Saturday’s trip to Lexington for a matchup with the

third-ranked Wildcats.

“We haven’t talked about Kentucky one time yet, and we’re going

to keep it like that until we come out with a W tomorrow,” senior

guard Chris Smith said Tuesday.

The Cardinals (12-0) could match the best start in school

history Wednesday and they’re one of six Division I teams yet to

lose, but it’s hard to say they are playing better than the Hoyas

(10-1).

Georgetown has won eight in a row – two over ranked teams – and

has won its last four by an average of 22.8 points. Louisville,

meanwhile, has needed to rally to win its last three games – none

by more than 10 points – and the last two were against College of

Charleston and sub-.500 Western Kentucky.

“We haven’t been playing good basketball the last three games,”

Pitino said. “We are giving unbelievable effort to win. There have

been four games where we should have gone down, but the effort is

so great that we are winning, but we are not executing at the

defensive end.

“… Now we have to get really good execution defensively to get

ready for Georgetown and to win.”

Further displaying the difference between the teams of late are

their recent efforts against Memphis. The Cardinals fell behind in

the second half before pulling out a 95-87 victory over the

previously ranked Tigers on Dec. 17. The Hoyas had a much easier

time five days later, never trailing in the second half and leading

by as many as 20 in a 70-59 victory – only the second time all

season Memphis was held below 70 points.

“That’s the type of game we’re going to be playing when we get

into the Big East so this will boost our confidence,” said senior

guard Jason Clark, who had 18 points and leads the Hoyas with 15.7

per game.

This contest could be a defensive struggle considering

Louisville and Georgetown rank 1-2 in the Big East in points

allowed. Louisville is holding teams to 36.3 percent from the field

while Georgetown’s opponents are at 38.8.

Hollis Thompson has keyed the Hoyas offense lately, averaging

16.2 points and 7.0 boards over the past six games, as Georgetown

has posted a fifth straight 10-1 start.

“We just want to understand where we’re flawed, how to fix those

flaws and get better,” coach John Thompson III said.

The matchup in the middle could be a key factor Wednesday.

Hoyas senior center Henry Sims has averaged 13.6 points, 5.4

rebounds and 3.6 assists over the last seven games.

Cardinals center Gorgui Dieng has really started to emerge,

posting five consecutive double-doubles while averaging 14.6 points

and 13.0 boards. He’s blocked 14 shots over the past three

games.

“I guarantee you that any big man I face, I’m quicker than

them,” Dieng said, “and I’m faster than them.”

Fellow sophomore Russ Smith also has been playing a key role off

the bench, averaging 19.7 points over the past three games while

collecting 14 steals.

“I guess it’s just good luck when I come in,” he said.

Teammate Peyton Siva hopes his luck will change. He’s totaled

five points on 2-of-12 shooting in the past two games with 10

turnovers. He’s among the Big East leaders in turnovers (3.7 per

game) and assists (6.4).

Siva had eight turnovers in these teams’ only matchup last

season as Louisville lost 62-59 at Georgetown on Jan. 31.