Georgetown Coach John Thompson, a stickler for punctuality, was late today as his basketball team practiced at the Palestra for Saturday's regionally televised game game against Penn at 1:30 p.m. (WRC-TV-4).

"I came in late because I was looking at the (Penn) films," Thompson explained.

What he saw was an 11-2 team similar in many respects to the 13-2 Hoyas, the nation's 10th-ranked team.

"That was one of the things I noticed about their team," Thompson said. "They do do a number of things similar to us, in a lot of ways besides wanting a fast tempo."

In suburban Philadelphia Saturday night, George Washington, with three straight wins, invades Villanova Fieldhouse, also seeking a fast tempo in its bid to upset the Eastern Eight leader. The Wildcats, despite a 4-0 league record, are struggling at 8-7 overall after a fast start. Game time is 8 o'clock.

Elsewhere Saturday, Navy hosts Virginia Commonwealth at 1:15 p.m. and American plays an East Coast Conference game at Lehigh at 8 p.m.

The ECAC did some schedule shuffling to put the Penn-Georgetown game on television. A source said the ECAC had tired of televising such Ivy League contests as Penn-Princeton in which Princeton always held the ball.

"We may lose," one Penn official said today, "but we won't be afraid to run with Georgetown."

The running game is Penn's strength, with two small, quick guards in 5-foot-11 Bobby Willis and 6-foot Booney Salter, the only nonsenior on the defending Ivy League champt's starting lineup. Forwards Tim Smith and Tony Price are both good shooters.

Matt White, a 6-10 center whose family lives in Bethesda, Md., although he's a product of Choate School, will be matched against Georgetown's Tom Scates and Ed Spriggs, who alternate at center. White is quick, physical and a scorer around the basket. He is shooting better than 70 percent this season and last year played Duke's Mike Giminski strongly in the NCAA tournament.

A big question is whether the Quakers, who will be playing their seventh game in 15 days, can handle Georgetown's pressing defenses.

"That's the thing I'm concerned with because their guards are quick and seem to be adequate ballhandlers. But we will try it and find out if they are," Thompson said.

Both teams have the ability to turn off the speed and play deliberately. Penn has beaten Dartmouth, Princeton and St. Joseph's that way. At the start of the season, Georgetown opted for slower pace and beat Maryland and Indiana with John Duren, Steve Martin, Craig Shelton and Eric Floyd playing almost the entire 40 minutes.

Being on the road and with his bench unproductive, Thompson hinted a return to a slower pace was possible.

"We have to play to our strengths in relationship to the other team's strengths," he said. You can't run when the other team can cope with your break. Then you have to make adjustments."

The only common opponent for the teams is St. Joseph's, a 37-36 winner over Georgtown and a 43-42 loser to Penn.

At Villanova, GW forward Mike Samson will attempt to continue his offensive streak of 94 points and 73 percent shooting in the last three games. Villanova, a 75-71 winner over GW in December at Smith Center reportedly is at a low ebb in team confidence. Its full-court press doesn't work and star guard Rory Sparrow has found it difficult to make even a layup, with recent shooting games of one of 13 against Notre Dame and one of 11 against Princeton.

GW is 2-2 in the Eastern Eight and guard Bob Lindsay, who injured a knee in the first Villanova game, won't be back in action until next week. Tom Glenn, starting forward, is hampered by strained tendons in his left knee and reserve guard Daryle Charles has been declared academically ineligible.E3