Despite losing its top three scorers from last season and not having a senior on the roster, Georgetown has played well enough to earn some early national recognition.
With strong showings against two of the nation's top programs already under their belt, the No. 20 Hoyas could face another tough test against visiting Tennessee on Friday night as part of the SEC/Big East Challenge.
Georgetown (4-1) received a few votes in the preseason AP poll, but not much was expected this early after top scorers Jason Clark, Hollis Thompson and Henry Sims moved on. That trio led the Hoyas to a 24-9 record in 2011-12.
That notion changed when the Hoyas handed then-No. 11 UCLA a 78-70 loss in Brooklyn on Nov. 19. The next night, Georgetown took top-ranked Indiana to overtime before falling 82-72.
With three sophomore starters plus a sophomore and a freshman as his top reserves, coach John Thompson III hopes those results on a big stage at the new Barclays Center will be a stepping stone for his young squad.
"We're still growing up," he said. "You hope to grow up without losses, but hopefully (the Indiana game) will help."
Georgetown's performance in Brooklyn and a 72-50 home win over Mount St. Mary's on Saturday helped the program return to the Top 25 after it was ranked 15th in the final poll last season. However, Thompson does not want to read too much into his team's early success, especially after the Hoyas led by only two at halftime Saturday.
"We still have a young team," said Thompson, whose team shot 63.8 percent for the game against the Mountaineers but committed 11 of its 17 turnovers in the first half. "We still have guys adjusting to different roles, but we're a work in progress."
Guard Markel Starks, who started 25 games as a sophomore last season, is averaging 19.3 points on 57.9 percent shooting in the last three contests. Over that same span, sophomore forward Otto Porter has averaged 16.7 and 9.7 rebounds.
Looking to improve to 3-0 in the SEC/Big East Challenge, Georgetown takes on Tennessee (4-1) for the first time since losing 90-78 when both schools were ranked Nov. 28, 2008.
The Volunteers are 2-1 in this event and have won two in a row overall since shooting an anemic 26.0 percent in a 62-45 loss to Oklahoma State in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off on Nov. 16. Jarnell Stokes and Trae Golden combined for 37 points on 14-of-17 shooting in a 77-50 win over Oakland on Monday.
In its most dominating effort of the season, Tennessee held the Golden Grizzlies to 28.6 percent shooting and owned a 42-29 advantage on the glass.
"We don't lack talent," coach Cuonzo Martin said. "For us it is finding the right rotations, the right flow to get guys in the game. I think we are making progress."
Averaging team highs of 15.2 points and 7.4 rebounds, Stokes is excited about the chance to face a ranked opponent and three fellow emerging sophomore forwards in Porter, Greg Whittington and Mikael Hopkins.
"I hear that they got some good big guys. I am looking forward to the matchup," said Stokes, who has totaled 43 points in his last two games. "I don't want to get outside of myself as far as doing things I am not used to doing. I just want to win."
The Associated Press News Service
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