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March 7, 2008

Georgetown looks to cool off red-hot Cards

More: Big East Breakdown | Play Yahoo! Sports Tourney Pick'em

When the Big East schedule came out, the season-ending matchup Saturday between Louisville and Georgetown certainly looked worth circling. Expectations were high for both teams. The Cardinals were fifth in the Rivals.com Preseason Top 25, and the Hoyas - coming off an appearance in the Final Four - were 10th.

But five games into the Big East season, Louisville was 13-5 overall and 3-2 in the Big East. Suddenly it looked like an eraser might be needed for that circle.

Then Rick Pitino and Co. called Office Max and canceled the eraser. They regrouped after a 92-82 road loss to Seton Hall on Jan. 19. They rededicated themselves on the defensive end, and they found some offense, too.

They arrive for Saturday's meeting at the Verizon Center having won 11 of their past 12, including nine in a row. One of the nine was a 59-51 bludgeoning of the Hoyas in which the Cardinals held them without a field goal for nearly eight minutes in the second half.

"I just told them to play it possession by possession, play great defense," Pitino said. "As long as you play great defense, you'll always have a chance. We turned up the pressure in our press and that helped."

So did Pitino's halftime switcheroo. The coach came out for the game looking like the Good Humor man in an all-white ensemble because it was a "White Out" game. But with the Cardinals trailing 31-23 at the break, he donned a black suit for the final 20 minutes. Louisville held Georgetown to 20 second-half points and won going away.

"I don't want to negate anything that they did; they were extremely attentive and turned up the heat a little bit," Hoyas coach John Thompson III said. "But you know I think it was lapses on our part. They played well. They are a very good team. They are a very well-coached team. They are a deep team and they have a team that has many pieces that can hurt you. They play well together and that showed up in the second half."

Here's a closer look at the second Cardinals-Hoyas matchup:

Breakdown: Louisville at Georgetown
Andre McGee vs. Jonathan Wallace
EDGE: Georgetown McGee, a 5-10 junior, and 6-1 sophomore Edgar Sosa split the minutes at the point for the Cardinals. McGee averages 6.7 points and 1.8 assists per game, and he's a better decision-maker with the ball than Sosa. Wallace, a 6-foot-1 senior, averages 10.4 ppg and shoots 42.7 percent from 3-point range. He has made 50 percent (9-for-18) of his 3s over the past six games. The last game in which he didn't have at least two 3-pointers was against Louisville, who held him without a single trey.
Jessie Sapp vs. Jerry Smith
EDGE: Louisville Smith, a 6-1 sophomore, has emerged to become one of the Cardinals' leading scorers (10.8 ppg). He also leads the team in steals. He was one of the leading scorers in the first meeting between the teams, going for 16 points on 5-for-6 shooting, including 4-for-5 from 3-point range. Sapp, a 6-3 junior, is a multipurpose threat for the Hoyas. He's averaging 10.4 ppg, and he's Georgetown's best on-ball defender. He has been in a shooting slump since the first meeting, hitting just 35.9 percent (14 of 39).
David Padgett vs. Roy Hibbert
EDGE: Georgetown Padgett, a 6-11 senior, is the unquestioned leader of the Cardinals. He's averaging a team-high 11.7 points and 4.7 rebounds, and he has three 20-point games since the first meeting between the teams after scoring a game-high 18 against the Hoyas. Hibbert, a 7-2 senior, is the leading scorer (13.6 ppg) and rebounder (6.4) for Georgetown. He's averaging 15.2 ppg since the loss to the Cardinals.
Terrence Williams vs. Austin Freeman
EDGE: Louisville Williams, a 6-6 junior, ranks second on the Cardinals in scoring (11.3 ppg) and rebounding (7.5). He's a key to the Louisville offense: He's shooting 30.4 percent (21 of 69) in U of L's six losses and 44.5 percent in the team's 24 wins. Freeman, a 6-4 freshman, has remained in the Georgetown starting lineup, but he hasn't had much of an impact on the offensive end. In fact, his highest scoring output in the past 12 games was the 14 he had against Louisville in the first matchup.
DaJuan Summers vs. Earl Clark
EDGE: Louisville Clark, a 6-9 sophomore, is the leading rebounder (8.0) and fourth-leading scorer (10.4 ppg) for the Cardinals. He also leads the team in blocked shots (1.7). Summers, a 6-8 sophomore, is the Hoyas' second-leading scorer (11.3 ppg) and second-leading rebounder (5.6). He has been a non-factor in Georgetown's four losses, shooting just 24.4 percent (10 of 41) in those games. He had only five points against Louisville in the first meeting, and he will need to score in double digits if the Hoyas are going to avenge the earlier loss.
EDGE: Louisville The mainstays off the Georgetown bench are 6-8 senior Patrick Ewing Jr. (6.2 points per game, 4.3 rebounds per game) and 6-4 sophomore Jeremiah Rivers (2.9 ppg, 2.5 rpg). Louisville goes deeper, with 6-8 sophomore Derrick Caracter (8.6 ppg, 5 rpg in just 17.9 mpg), the 6-1 Sosa (8.2 ppg) and 6-8 senior Juan Palacios (6 ppg, 4.2 rpg).
EDGE: Louisville Thompson has done another masterful job and has the Hoyas on the brink of consecutive Big East championships. But Pitino won the first meeting and has overcome several injury problems. The Cardinals have won nine in a row and 11 of 12, and they're the team playing better right now.
The Cardinals are the deeper team. They're playing defense as well as any team in the country, and they also have shown some offensive firepower. Basically, they've been adaptable. During their current streak they've won games by scoring in the 50s and by reaching 90 points. The Hoyas, by contrast, haven't topped the 75-point mark since putting 84 on Notre Dame on Jan. 19. They always seem to win close games, and they're not going to let someone get away from them. However, there are less reasons to doubt Louisville right now than Georgetown.
Louisville 68, Georgetown 67.

More: Big East Breakdown | Play Yahoo! Sports Tourney Pick'em

Bob McClellan is the college basketball editor for Rivals.com. He can be heard on Rivals Radio every Tuesday at 8:15 a.m. ET and can be reached at bmcclellan@rivals.com.

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