- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 5, 2002

The undefeated Georgetown Hoyas can answer the "who have they played?" question tonight against undefeated South Carolina at MCI Center.

The Gamecocks (4-0) offer a huge upgrade in competition for Georgetown as the Hoyas take on a major program from a premier league, the Southeastern Conference. A convincing win would put Georgetown (4-0) back in the national spotlight.

"I'm totally shocked at the lack of preseason attention they've gotten, especially with everybody back," South Carolina coach Dave Odom said. "They're certainly one of the top three or four teams in the Big East, and usually those teams are ranked. Like us, they have to play their way onto the radar screen. For us, it's a different test the water gets deeper and the sharks are more ferocious."

In their first four games, the Hoyas have annihilated the opponents Grambling State, James Madison, Towson and Coastal Carolina by an average of 32.2 points. Georgetown has the nation's 18th-rated scoring offense (86.8 points) and 10th-toughest scoring defense (54.5).

If the Hoyas greet the Gamecocks like they have every other team to date, optimism on the Hilltop should run at a fevered pitch, since Georgetown's first four opponents had a combined 5-12 record before last night.

"If we play hard and we play up to our capabilities, we can pretty much do anything we want if we really come to play," said shooting guard Gerald Riley, the Hoyas' second-leading scorer at 17.5.

Hoyas coach Craig Esherick said with the graduation of four-year starting point guard Kevin Braswell, he was a little apprehensive of tossing the Hoyas into huge non-conference clashes.

"The big thing that I always worry about this time of year is people's confidence," Esherick said. "I want our confidence to build each game, and I don't want to tear anyone's confidence down playing teams that maybe we shouldn't be playing early on."

Braswell hit the game-winning shot with less than three seconds remaining to beat the Gamecocks 70-68 last year in Columbia, S.C. Despite his current team being undefeated, Odom said it hasn't done enough to merit any attention.

After a 66-47 win over Temple on Monday, Odom's team hits the road for the first time without 6-foot-10 starting center Tony Kitchings. Kitchings broke his left (shooting) hand in two places last Friday against South Carolina State and will be out until early January.

Coming off the bench, Kitchings hurt the Hoyas last season when he scored 12 and pulled down seven rebounds. The wide-bodied Kitchings (260 pounds) would have matched up with Mike Sweetney, Georgetown's preseason consensus first-team All-American power forward. Without Kitchings, Odom probably will have to play mostly zone defense, so the 6-foot-8, 260-pound Sweetney, Georgetown's leading scorer at 19.5, doesn't maul his frontline.

"They're virtually the same team that dominated us inside and both their frontline players [Sweetney and 6-11 center Wesley Wilson] are back," Odom said. "It was a nightmare trying to guard them. They really killed us inside, and that's my immediate concern."

Odom isn't exaggerating. Sweetney scored 20 points with 10 rebounds, and Wilson added 19 in Georgetown's win.

"We just want to come out and prove to everybody that we can play with the best," said Georgetown sophomore point guard Tony Bethel. "We're just going to come out and do what we've been doing defending and rebounding and we'll see where it takes us."

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