Georgetown's latest non-power conference opponent sports a losing record and not a name associated with winning college basketball. Then again Western Carolina nearly won at highly-ranked Illinois earlier this month. Considering the No. 15 Hoyas (8-1) haven't been rocking and rolling offensively during their current five-game winning streak, this is no time for losing focus.
Playing in Champaign on Dec. 4, the Catamounts (4-6) stood tied with the No.13 Illini as the game clock moved inside the final six minutes before succumbing 72-64. Guard Preston Ross paced four double digit scorers with 17 points and Western Carolina outrebounded its Big 10 opponent, something five of Georgetown's last seven foes have done to the Hoyas.
Before facing Illinois, the Southern Conference opponent lost by two at undefeated Eastern Kentucky and now enters the Verizon Center coming off a 70-64 win over Appalachian State. Trey Sumler leads the Catamounts with 16.2 points per game and the 6-foot-2 guard grabbed nine rebounds against Illinois.
"They have very good offensive pieces," Hoyas coach John Thompson III said during a Big East future-themed media session following Thursday's practice. "Sometimes you play some teams you say , 'OK, we're really focused on stopping these two guys, we should be OK over here.' (The Catamounts) can put five really good offensive players on the court and they play a tough aggressive defense. We have to be very good on Saturday."
Georgetown and Western Carolina tip-off at noon in the game three of the Hoyas four-game homestand.
At times this season the Hoyas have been very good, including large chunks of Monday's 89-53 win against Longwood behind a turnover-generating defense and Otto Porter's statistically dominant performance. Georgetown forced the over-matched Lancers into 30 turnovers, then turned those miscues into an overwhelming 47 points. The All-American candidate Porter tallied a career-high 22 points and seven assists while matching his personal best with four steals.
However - and no offense to the Big South program - but a rout over Longwood does not exactly remove any lingering doubts after the Hoyas scoring-challenged wins over Tennessee and Towson. Georgetown went without a double-digit scorer in the 37-36 win over the Volunteers and opened last Saturday's 46-40 victory over Towson by missing 22 of its first 24 shots from the field.
"There are times over the course of the season where the ball just won't go in," guard Markel Starks said. "The one thing we have learned from it all is that if we stick with our stuff, stick together as a unit, as a collective we can be good. I'm glad we've had the early struggles. That's a testament - not necessarily saying how great of a team we are - but we are a good team. The more we play together, the more we share the ball we'll be good."