In games between perennial Big East powers Georgetown and Connecticut over the past ten years, being nationally ranked has been rather significant. For most of the past decade, the Hoyas found out the hard way.
Seventh-ranked Georgetown (12-1, 2-0 Big East) will look to win two straight against the Huskies for the first time since 1992-93 on Saturday when the longtime rivals meet at the Verizon Center.
When one team has come into this rivalry ranked with the other unranked— which has happened in 11 of the last 12 meetings—the ranked team has won every time. Connecticut was the team boasting a national ranking in 10 of those contests, as it won 11 straight over the Hoyas from Jan. 17, 1998-Jan. 14, 2006.
Georgetown finally broke that streak last season, as the then ninth-ranked Hoyas beat the unranked Huskies 59-46 on their way to a 30-7 record and a trip to the Final Four.
Like they did when they finished 11th in the nation in scoring defense (58.0 points per game) last season, the Hoyas are again relying on their defense in 2007-08. They’ve yielded just 54.8 points on average and allowed opponents to shoot just 34.6 percent—the lowest percentage in the country.
Georgetown opened the season at No. 5 and remained there until an 85-71 loss to Memphis on Dec. 22 dropped it four spots in the rankings. The Hoyas have won four straight since, including a 76-60 victory at DePaul on Tuesday.
“We made sure we limited them to one shot and made it hard for them to score over us and made it tough for them down low,” said center Roy Hibbert, who had 17 points, 11 rebounds and five assists. “That opened up the floodgates for us.”
That performance was just the second double-double of the season for the Big East’s preseason player of the year after he had 11 in 2006-07. Hibbert still leads the Hoyas with 12.0 points, 6.4 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game.
But his coach, John Thompson III, realizes his star center’s statistics don’t always tell the whole story.
“In many ways his scoring is irrelevant,” Thompson said. “His decision-making is always good.”
Hibbert had 18 points and 12 rebounds against UConn last season as the Hoyas snapped their losing streak in the series. In his only other game against the Huskies - as a freshman - he was held scoreless in 17 minutes.
Though Georgetown doesn’t have a player in the top 25 in scoring in the Big East, it is balanced. Five Hoyas average at least 9.4 points.
UConn (11-3, 2-1) is looking to build off an 81-65 win over St. John’s on Tuesday in its conference home opener. Junior A.J. Price scored a career-high 25 points and had seven assists.
“That is what we needed. A.J. has a year under his belt and that’s all he really needed in college basketball,” said forward Jeff Adrien, who had 20 points and 14 rebounds for his seventh double-double. “He knows everybody’s strengths out there on the court so it is really good for us and good for him.”
The 7-foot-2 Hibbert will be tested in the paint by Huskies center Hasheem Thabeet. The 7-foot-3 sophomore averages 3.9 blocks per game—he swatted 10 in UConn’s loss at Notre Dame last Saturday.
The Huskies had played three straight on the road prior to Tuesday - their only three true road contests of the season.