The Cardinals and Hoyas enter tonight's 7 pm ESPN showdown coming off impressive upset road wins this weekend.
Louisville, playing without freshman center Gorgui Dieng, knocked off No. 5-ranked UConn 79-78 in a double-overtime thriller Saturday afternoon. Once again, sophomore guard Peyton Siva was the hero for the Cardinals, hitting shots to force both overtimes and scoring the Cards final four points of the contest.
On paper, the two teams look similar. Both Rick Pitino and John Thompson start three guards. Both squads boast veteran centers – junior Terrence Jennings for Louisville, senior Julian Vaughn for Georgetown. And both teams will have young power forwards in the starting lineup tonight – sophomore Stephen Van Treese for the Cardinals, and freshman Nate Lubbick for the Hoyas.
Tonight's game figures to be a war between two of the top backcourt's in the Big East.Louisville's defensive focus will clearly center on Georgetown guards Freeman, Chris Wright and Jason Clark, who average a combined 42 points. Freeman, the Big East's third leading scorer at 18.8 points per game, is the Hoyas go-to man offensively. He's capable of putting up huge numbers, as Villanova found out Saturday, and is a dangerous three-point shooter.
"We've got to play some man Monday because they're such a good shooting team," Pitino said. "We've got to play more man defense against Georgetown because that Princeton backdoor is very difficult."
The Cardinals played zone Saturday in their win at UConn. That defensive approach kept Kemba Walker, the Big East's leading scorer, in check, and helped Louisville escape with a key Big East victory that gave the Cardinals possession of second place in the league standings behind Pittsburgh.
"We did a great job in our zone," Pitino said. "It's a zone, but we play mostly man. We really go away from the basket, we switch, we get out into the passing lanes. And once they get into their offense we're really playing man to man."
A big reason for Louisville's success against the Huskies is that they out-scored UConn 18-6 on fast-break points. Getting out on the break for easy points won't be as easy against the Hoyas veteran backcourt. Georgetown allowed only two fast-break points in their win over the Wildcats Saturday.
But the game ultimately could be decided on the backboard. UConn out-rebounded Louisville 51-36 but the Cardinals were able compensate with fast-break points and eight three-pointers. The Hoyas have out-rebounded opponents by 4.2 boards a game this season, so Louisville needs another big effort from Jennings, who grabbed 10 rebounds against the Huskies.
"We took away [UConn's] interior play," Pitino said. "And when you put all that pressure on the outside, you're going to give up offensive rebounds. Normally, I'm upset at the rebounding…but if you take away certain things, you have to give up certain things."
The Cardinals did not return home after their win over UConn, heading directly to Washington D.C for tonight's contest. After thrilling, last-second wins over West Virginia and UConn last week, Louisville now looks to strengthen its position in the Big East standings and continue building momentum against one of the league's hottest teams.