The Cardinals, winners of 8 of their past 10 games are set to host the Big East-leading Hoyas in the first of two games this season.
work cut out against Georgetown's
7'2 Roy Hibbert.
Since dropping a 69-67 decision at Connecticut two weeks ago, Louisville has ripped off a pair of decisive wins over Rutgers (87-50) and Marquette (71-57) on the road. Rick Pitino's Cardinals enter tonight's big game playing their best basketball of the season.
"Right now, I think we're at the point where everybody knows their minutes, understands how they're going to play and our defense is there," Rick Pitino said.
Georgetown is hot, too. The Hoyas have won five straight, including a 63-53 win over USF on Tuesday.
Georgetown is a balanced and deep team, led by 7-2 senior center Roy Hibbert. The Hoyas normally go ten deep and boast five players that average 9 or more points per game. Hibbert leads Georgetown in scoring (13 ppg) and rebounding (7 rpg).
"It's not just Hibbert, they have great balance," Pitino said. "(Jesse) Sapp and (Dejuan) Summers are playing terrific. They can beat you with all five guys. They can beat you with Patrick Ewing, Jr. coming off the bench. It's really the whole team and stopping their (team) concepts."
The Cardinals can match the Hoyas player for player. Rick Pitino's team normally goes nine or ten deep on the bench and boasts five players averaging 10 or more points. Sophomore guard Jerry Smith leads Louisville in scoring with 11.3 points, while 6'9 forward Earl Clark leads the team in rebounding at 8.5 per contest.
"We're a balanced team. Georgetown is a balanced team," Pitino said. "They're a lot like us but they are proven more by going to the Final Four last year."
With both team equally matched, the contest figures to become a physical, defensive slug-fest. Georgetown ranks first in the Big East in points allowed; Louisville is second. Both teams also rank among the Top 10 nationally in field goal percentage nationally.
"They are one of the best (defensive) teams in the nation," Pitino said. "Their field goal defense against the three and two is (great). They take away the paint. They just play good, solid defense."
Louisville has been extremely stingy defensively of late, holding three of their past four opponents below 33 percent shooting from the floor. In their win over Marquette this week, Louisville held the Golden Eagles to 32 percent shooting, 14 percentage points below their average. The Cardinals also held St. John's and Rutgers to 32 percent from the field, forcing 24 turnovers against the Scarlet Knights and getting a season-high 14 steals against the Red Storm.
The Cardinals will try to do something they haven't done in more than 50 years: Beat the Hoyas. Louisville's last win over Georgetown came in 1953. Since that victory, the Hoyas have won the last four meetings between the two schools, including a 73-65 win last year at Freedom Hall.
Rick Pitino hasn't enjoyed much luck against Georgetown, either. Pitino is 2-5 against the Hoyas, 2-4 while the coach at Providence from 1985-87, though one of Pitino's wins over Georgetown came in the 1987 NCAA South Region Final.