South Florida-Georgetown Preview

The Associated Press

Georgetown and South Florida are both known for shutting down opponents, and points could be at a premium when the Big East's stingiest teams meet.

That could work to the Hoyas' advantage considering defensive battles haven't always worked in the Bulls' favor.

No. 14 Georgetown hopes to build on one of its better defensive efforts Saturday morning when it hosts South Florida, which is just one-half game back of the Hoyas.

After allowing Pittsburgh to shoot an opponent season-high 52.1 percent in last Saturday's 72-60 loss - a defensive performance coach John Thompson III called "awful" - Georgetown (17-4, 7-3) clamped down Wednesday against Connecticut. The Hoyas limited the Huskies to 30.0 percent from the field and 2-for-20 shooting from 3-point range in a 58-44 victory.

"We did respond really well," said senior guard Jason Clark, who averages a team-best 15.4 points. "We know what we did wrong in the game to lose at Pitt. We didn't want the same thing to happen."

While the defense bounced back, Hollis Thompson broke out of his brief offensive funk, scoring 18 on 7-of-15 shooting. The junior forward, who averages 14.0 points, combined for 15 on 6-of-17 shooting in his previous two games.

Replicating his latest effort could be difficult, however, as South Florida (13-9, 6-3) is allowing a Big East-low 59.0 points per game - narrowly ahead of Georgetown's 59.2.

While both teams excel defensively, the Hoyas are capable of putting up some points, too. They rank in the middle of the conference in scoring, averaging 70.8, while the Bulls score a league-worst 62.1 per game.

South Florida's inability to put teams away has led to trouble in games it seemingly could win.

The Bulls are only 10-5 when limiting opponents to 60 points or fewer, while the Hoyas are 12-0 in such contests.

The teams were pitted in a tight defensive struggle in last season's lone meeting and Georgetown prevailed 61-55. South Florida's Augustus Gilchrist had 22 points on 10-of-16 shooting, but the rest of the team was 13 of 43 from the floor (30.2 percent) while misfiring on 10 of 11 from beyond the arc.

The Hoyas have won four of the last five against the Bulls, but suffered a 72-64 loss as the country's seventh-ranked team in the last one at the Verizon Center on Feb. 3, 2010.

South Florida is coming off one of its best offensive games of the season, but it came against a Providence team that has been struggling to stop Big East opponents.

The Bulls shot 50.9 percent and matched a season low with five turnovers in Sunday's 81-78 victory over the Friars. South Florida, which only has Gilchrist (10.7 points per game) and Jawanza Poland (10.4) averaging in double figures, had a season-high five players score at least 10.

"We can't play like this all the time, we know that," coach Stan Heath said. "But hopefully the guys got a little bit of a message, too, that we've got to make sure defensively we bring it. That's who we are."

Heath's team has already doubled its Big East win total from last season and is tied for fourth place with Notre Dame.

"Anytime you win, that feeds into your confidence even more so," Heath said. "This is the halfway point (of the conference season) and we've put ourselves in a good position. There's still a lot of basketball to play, and this league is a funny league. You can go into stretches either way, up or down. So, you've still got to take it one game at a time."