Georgetown has prided itself on having one of the nation’s best defenses. Now it may need to slow down the Big East’s leading scorer to avoid back-to-back losses for the first time in more than a year.
The fifth-ranked Hoyas (13-2, 3-1) try to rebound from their first conference loss of the season on Saturday when they host Luke Harangody and Notre Dame (13-3, 3-1).
Harangody leads the Big East with 19.3 points per game, and he has been even better since conference play began, averaging 24.3 points and 11.8 rebounds in four games.
The 6-foot-8 sophomore is fifth in the conference in field-goal shooting at 52.4 percent, but he’ll have his work cut out for him against a Georgetown team that is second in the nation in field-goal percentage defense (35.8).
Defense was the hallmark of the Hoyas’ run to the Final Four last season, and nothing has changed in 2007-08. Georgetown was 11th in the country in scoring defense (58.0 ppg) a year ago and ranks eighth this season, allowing an average of 56.7 points.
The Hoyas have held opponents to 54.6 points per game while outscoring them by an average of 20.2 points during their current 14-game winning streak at home. That run dates back to a 56-52 loss to Villanova on Jan. 8, 2007.
That defeat, along with a loss at Pittsburgh five days later, marks the last time Georgetown has dropped consecutive games. The Hoyas have since lost only four of their 36 games, and now are looking to bounce back from another road loss to Pitt.
Georgetown’s defensive reputation took a bit of a hit in that game, falling 69-60 to the No. 15 Panthers on Monday. After giving up just 27 points in the first half, the Hoyas allowed Pitt to score 42 points in the second.
“I didn’t think there was any doubt we were going to come back and make a run and take over the game,” forward Patrick Ewing Jr. said. “But we didn’t do enough.”
It was the second straight game the Hoyas gave up 69 points and allowed the opposition to shoot better than 40 percent from the field. They held their previous four opponents to averages of 53.0 points and 31.8 percent shooting.
Center Roy Hibbert scored in double figures for a third straight game after doing so just three times in his previous eight outings. The preseason All-American leads the team with 12.5 points and 6.7 rebounds per game, and Georgetown has struggled to find other consistent options offensively.
Sophomore DaJuan Summers averages 11.0 points, but he was held scoreless against Pitt and has scored six points or fewer four times. Junior Jessie Sapp, who scores 8.9 points per game, has totaled 11 points on 4-of-15 shooting in his last two games.
Though the Hoyas are 12th in the Big East in scoring at 72.7 points per game, they are tied for third in the nation in field-goal shooting at 51.1 percent.
In the last five years, Notre Dame is 1-13 on the road against ranked opponents, with its only victory coming at No. 22 Alabama on Dec. 7, 2005. The Irish have faced one ranked team this season, losing 92-66 at No. 15 Marquette last Saturday despite Harangody’s 29 points and 14 rebounds.
Another clutch performance from Harangody helped Notre Dame bounce back from that loss. He scored 24 of his 25 points in the second half as the Irish overcame a seven-point halftime deficit to beat Cincinnati 91-74 on Tuesday.
It may have been the best 20 minutes of basketball this season for Notre Dame, which outscored the Bearcats 64-40 in the second half.
“We were confident, because we know what we are capable of,” Harangody said. “But we were very resilient after halftime. We came out with good defense as soon as the second half began.”
Georgetown has won four in a row against Notre Dame, including two meetings last season—66-48 at the Verizon Center and 84-82 in the Big East tournament semifinals.