Preview: Georgetown

A closer look at tonight's contest between No. 9 Georgetown and No. 15 Notre Dame at the Purcell Pavilion.

No. 15 Notre Dame vs. No. 9 Georgetown

Records: Notre Dame (11-1) vs. Georgetown (11-1). The Irish lost to then-No. 17 Kentucky in Louisville on December 8, while the Hoyas dropped a 68-65 decision at Temple on December 9.

Tip-off: 7:00 PM (EST) ESPN2

Previous Meeting: February 27, 2010: Unranked Notre Dame defeated #11 Georgetown, 78-64

Quality Wins: Notre Dame (Georgia, Wisconsin, Gonzaga); Georgetown (Old Dominion, North Carolina State, at #8 Missouri, at #17 Memphis).

Quote to Note: "Connecticut feeds off of (Kemba Walker) whereas Notre Dame is a great all-around basketball team. They (Notre Dame) might not have a superstar, but they have good basketball players. Taking nothing away from UCONN, but this team is one of the better teams I have seen this year in terms of playing together. Notre Dame just has great balance from end to end." – Maryland Baltimore-County head coach Randy Monroe after facing both the No. 4 ranked Huskies and the Irish.

Point Spread: Georgetown -2

Notre Dame Starting Lineup

  • Forward: 6'8" 218-pound senior Carleton Scott: Keys the back line of the Irish defense with shot-blocking presence and rebounding prowess…A deadly mid-range shooter that can occasionally fill it up from beyond the arc, especially in the friendly confines of the Purcell Pavilion…Much more confident player as a senior who's assumed an on-court leadership role, ranking as one of four team captains…Can run into needless fouls on occasion vs. quality opponents.

  • Forward: 6'8" 235-pound senior Tim Abromaitis: Was mired in a shooting slump that stretched back to late February 2010 before finding his range midway through the non-conference season….Has one of the prettiest releases in college basketball and his ability to connect from long-range is essential to the Irish offense vs. top tier Big East competition…Improved ball-handler, passer and defensive rebounder who can pile up points at the free throw line thanks to movement off the ball and with a two-dribble mid-range game.

  • Forward: 6'8" 232-pound senior Tyrone Nash: Undersized center through whom the Irish offense clicks from both the low block and high post…One of the top passing and ball-handling C/PF in the conference though offers no outside shooting threat…One of the three most improved free throw shooters over the last 30 seasons at the program and the team's top defender – both inside and on the perimeter.
  • Guard/Forward: 6'8" 219-pound senior Scott Martin: Still shaking off the rust of two years away from the game (transfer/injury)…An excellent mid-range shooter with a feel for the half-court game…Will be challenged by athletic shooting guards in conference play but his presence on the court helps the Irish offense flow…Underrated athlete with superior basketball sense – he's just not yet all the way back from a torn ACL (October 2009).

  • Guard: 6'3" 203-pound senior Ben Hansbrough: Runs the show in the half-court offense, stressing defenses with constant penetration coupled by deadeye shooting from beyond the arc…The team's leading scorer in non-conference play and one of the best with the basketball in the nation…Must assume duties as the lead guard defender after the graduation of mentally tough Tory Jackson – and there will be several conference guards capable of hurting the Irish if Hansbrough is not up to the task on a nightly basis.

Key Reserves:

  • Guard: 6'2" 173-pound freshman Eric Atkins: His development as a true sixth man and backup point guard ranks as the No. 1 storyline of the non-conference season…Lends quickness, court sense and confidence while allowing Hansbrough to shift to his (somewhat) more natural shooting guard role…Expect 25-32 minutes per night if he can hold up vs. stronger, older conference guards over the three-month grind.

  • Center/Forward: 6'9" 244-pound sophomore Jack Cooley: – The team's most improved player since the end of last season…Patient – though not yet polished – in the post and aggressive on both offensive and defensive glass…A solid position defender and decent shot-blocker…Provides instant energy and his ability to continuously earn 10-13 minutes per game will help determine the team's strength – not to mention Conference seeding – at season's end.

  • Forward: 6'6" 215-pound sophomore Joey Brooks: Currently mans the 8th player role in the rotation with the ability to defend two positions, scrap for loose balls, and hit the defensive glass…Form is fine but final result still shaky from the field…At present, expect two to three minutes per night in close contests though six to nine would be ideal as the season progresses.

Meet the Hoyas

Gone to the NBA is multi-talented but enigmatic center Greg Monroe. Left behind is a group of battle-tested Big East veterans that have ripped the nets in non-conference play. The Hoyas rank second nationally, shooting 52.8 percent from the field as a team while scoring 81 points per game (18th).

Georgetown is led by the guard trio of Chris Wright, Jason Clark, and Austin Freeman with each averaging nearly 30 minutes of court time.

Freeman is the top gun among a host of shooters, hitting for 18.9 points while connecting on a head-shaking 56.8 percent of his shots including better than 49 percent from beyond the arc.

Senior point guard Chris Wright runs the show with a 2-1 assist-to-turnover ratio (six assists per contest) while ranking second to Freeman in scoring at 13.7 per game. A much-improved shooter, Wright's FG/FT/3PT percentages of 46.9/78.0/39.6 have helped open up the Hoyas attack. His partner in crime at the point, Jason Clark, remains one of the best on-ball defenders at his position and chips in better than 13 points and nearly four boards per contest. Both Wright and Clark average nearly two steals per game.

Freeman, Wright and Clark have hit an aggregate 74 of their 165 three-point attempts.

6'9" 247-pound senior Julian Vaughn serves as the Hoyas' chief inside presence with seven rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game while scoring better than nine per night. His true value is on the offensive glass, retrieving 20 percent of his teammates misses entering conference play.

Sophomore forward Hollis Thompson (6'7" 205) rounds out the starting five, averaging 8.5 points and 4.8 boards per night. Vaughn has hit a judicious 14 of 29 shots from long range to give the Hoyas a vexing fourth option from beyond the arc. Athletic big man Henry Sims comes off the bench to lend a shot-blocking presence (2.1 per game in just 16 minutes per contest)

The dirty work: On the surface, tonight's contest appears to feature two teams that rely on constant movement without the ball, perimeter sharpshooters, and squads with deft passing both inside-out – and more important – on quick cuts to the bucket. But to defeat the Hoyas at in tonight's conference opener, the Irish must embrace the aspect of the sport on which they came to rely late last season: defensive toughness and a team presence on the glass.

Look for both teams to connect on a high percentage (and volume) beyond the arc; to shoot nearly 50 percent from the field thanks to a size mismatches (Georgetown's guards vs. Notre Dame's quartet of 6'8" weapons); and for both to feature nearly a 1.5-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio, especially in a free-wheeling first half.

The difference will be determined by total trips to the free throw line and an advantage on the boards – elements of the game in which tonight's home team excels.

Prediction: Notre Dame 81 Georgetown 78


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