Washington failed the only real test it had. Georgetown just passed a big one.
Each team faces another tough challenge Saturday, though it may be more important to the psyche of the 17th-ranked Huskies.
They still don’t have an impressive win on their resume - and the Pac-10 might not present them with many chances for one - so handing the No. 15 Hoyas their first loss could provide a key boost of confidence.
“The next one is a heavyweight fight,” Huskies captain Quincy Pondexter said of this matchup at the Wooden Classic in Anaheim, Calif.
This marks only the second time Washington (6-1) has had to play away from home or face a team from a major conference. The first such game came Dec. 3 in a 99-92 overtime loss at unbeaten Texas Tech - unranked at the time but now No. 23.
The Huskies bounced back to beat Cal State Northridge 88-76 on Sunday.
“We’ve still got a lot of growing to do,” Pondexter said after scoring 20 points to see his team-leading average dip to 22.0 per game.
Pondexter is the lone senior on a team facing the most daunting portion of its schedule. After playing Georgetown (7-0), the Huskies meet previously ranked Portland next Saturday before facing No. 16 Texas A&M.
Coach Lorenzo Romar sees this stretch as good preparation for Pac-10 play even though his Huskies are the conference’s lone ranked team.
“Now starts what you could call the ‘pre-Pac-10’ part of our schedule,” Romar said. “Top 25 opponents, opponents who will come out and really test us.”
Hoyas coach John Thompson III had a similar idea in mind this week, with the difference being his team is tuning up for a conference schedule that includes five current Top 25 teams.
Georgetown hadn’t beaten a ranked team or even one from a major conference before knocking off No. 22 Butler 72-65 on Tuesday.
“This is a week that was put together by design, it wasn’t by accident” Thompson said. “In the Big East we will play a tough game on Tuesday or Wednesday and then another tough one on Saturday. I want our guys to be used to that emotional ride.”
The Hoyas have a big advantage inside for this matchup, with center Greg Monroe going against a team which has no player taller than 6-foot-9 Matthew Bryan-Amaning.
The 6-11 Monroe is coming off the best performance of his career, finishing with 24 points and 15 rebounds Tuesday. The reigning Big East rookie of the year is averaging a team-high 15.3 points and ranks second in the conference with 10.7 boards per game.
His presence creates space for Georgetown’s perimeter players, who have shot 35 of 78 from 3-point range (44.9 percent) in the last five games.
“Greg gets everybody else open because they have to pay attention to him,” said Austin Freeman, who had 18 points and was 4 of 5 from beyond the arc against Butler.
Freeman, Chris Wright and Jason Clark are the other scorers averaging in double figures for Georgetown.
They all start in the backcourt and could take turns trying to slow down Isaiah Thomas, last season’s Pac-10 freshman of the year who is only 5-8 but averaging 20.3 points.
The production of the 6-6 Pondexter may be key because he could often face the much bigger Monroe in the post. Pondexter ranks among the Pac-10’s top three in free throws made (51) and percentage (87.9), but Monroe has avoided foul trouble this season and hasn’t finished any game with more than three fouls.
The first meeting between these schools marks Georgetown’s first game in California since 2001.