For the first time this 6-2 season, Georgetown University basketball coach John Thompson will have all his players available for duty when the Hoyas meet undefeated Holy Cross in the opener of the ECAC Holiday Festival Tuesday night (7 p.m., WEAM-1390).
Princeton plays Alabama in the second game at Madison Square Garden. The winners will play for the championship of the streamlined tournament at 9 a.m., Thursday after a 7 p.m. consolation game between the losers.
Thompson indicated today he would finally be able to start the power inside lineup for which he has yearned for two seasons against a 6-0 Holy Cross team ranked No. 1 in the East and No. 13 nationally.
Power forward Craig (Big Sky) Shelton, the key to this Georgetown team, probably will start his first game since suffering a broken bone in his right hand (he is lefthanded) on Nov. 28.
Shelton came back to play well as a substitute in Georgetown's 61-55 double overtime win at St. Joseph's eight days ago. Shelton will wear a soft brace and tape on his nonshooting hand Tuesday night, but he says it will not hamper him.
"I use to 100 per cent when I'm playing," he said, "because when I'm playing I don't think about anything."
Thomson also said he would start 0-11, 255-pound Tom Scates at center and alternate him with seven-footer Mike Frazier. Frazier earned the starting center berth in preseason practice, but has played only 22 minutes in four games thus far. Both Scates and Frazier have been hampered by foot problems.
Without its power inside players, Georgetown had had to depend on a perimeter offense.
After a 91-87 defeat by Maryland in Shelton's last start, the Hoyas were able to get through four of their next five games with virtually no inside scoring punch. They absorbed a 71-67 loss at St. Bonaventure after 35 per cent shooting put them 17 points behind at half time.
In that game, Georgetown had only seven healthy players.
Georgetown and Holy cross are no strangers to each other. The Hoyas came away with a 69-65 victory last season at Wooster, one of two homecourt losses suffered by the Crusaders in posting a 23-6 record. Holy Cross went to the NCAA tournament last year for the first time since 1956. When Tom Heinsohn was the team captain.
Sophomore guard Ron Perry Jr., an All-American candidate and son of the Holy Cross athletic director, is the best known player on the current Crusader team.
But Georgetown's Strategy a year ago did not center around stopping Perry or Chris Potter, the team's second leading scorer. Instead, Thompson packed in a zone defense in an effort to keep 6-5 forward Mike Vicens from wreaking havoc underneath.
Vicens is a senior and was a member of the Puerto Rican Olympic team at Montreal.
"He's the key to their team," said Thompson, a few minutes after the Hoyas arrived here by a train this afternoon. "He's a tremendous inside player. He's 6'2 and plays like he's 6-10. He's one of those guys where you watch the other two (Perry and Potter). And he'll kill you.
"He's one of the reasons we played grabbed 7.5 rebounds, and achieved 55.3 per cent accuracy this season.
That Thompson is planning to start Scates, whose bulk clogs the inside in a zone defense, is a strong hint that Georgetown is planning extensive use of the zone Tuesday night.
From his vintage point, Perry said the key to beating, Georgetown is to contain its fast break a little bit while the Crusaders are able to maintain their own running game.
Perry is being compared to Holy Cross' last great guard - Bob Cousy. But their sytles are completely different. Cousy was a master of the flashy play. Perry is a model of fundamental efficiency. He gets the job done with out pizzaz.
He led all major college freshmen in scoring last season, at 23 points per game on 50 per cent field goal shooting and 88 per cent accuracy from the foul line. As a playmaking guard, his most impressive statistic is 45 turnovers in 894 minutes of play.
Perry is averaging 26 points and has improved his field goal and free throw percentages by a couple points this season. But his turnover total is up, to 18 in 223 minutes.
"You know, statistics lie anyway," George Blaney, his coach,said in Perry's defense, as if he needed any.
The second game pairs, as Princeton's fiesty coach Pete Carril so marvelously puts it, "Alabama's quickness against - I wouldn't call it our slowness - but our style."
A week ago, quickness won, 61-60. In the previous meeting, style won, 61-59. So this is a rubber match and Alabama coach C.M. Newton says "I'm not excited about playing Princeton again. Of all the teams on our schedule, and that includes Kentucky, there is on more difficult to prepare for. They exploit your weakness. If you don't play good defense they make you look bad."
Of course, Carril was just as pessimistic: "You ask whether I'd rather play them here or at Indiana (site of last week's game). You're asking me how I'd like to get killed - by electrocution or by hanging?"