And now the tough times get tougher for Georgetown.
The Hoyas will play Memphis State in an NCAA Midwest Regional game Sunady at 1 p.m. at Freedom Hall (WDVM-TV-9). The winner of this game will advance to the Midwest Regional semifinals (a.k.a. final 16) next Friday in Kansas City. The loser is eliminated.
Rest assured, Memphis State can play. Once ranked No. 1, the Tigers arrive here with a 22-7 record, a sinewy 6-foot-10 sophomore named Keith Lee and a team that is a lot tougher than Alcorn State.
Even though his Hoyas (22-9) escaped with a 68-63 victory over Alcorn State Friday night, Georgetown Coach John Thompson did not like what he saw, especially the Hoyas' 21 turnovers, most induced by Alcorn State's full-court press.
Thompson said, half in jest today, that his young Hoyas' ability to deal with an opponent's full-court press "depends on whether the moon is out or not.
"We've had troubles with the press at times this year," Thompson said, "but we've had trouble with everything at times this year."
"Obviously, their (Alcorn State's) pressure defense worked," said Gene Smith, Georgetown's junior guard. "They belonged in this tournament. We did not take them lightly."
Which brings us to Memphis State. The Tigers apply a full-court press often, but gently. Mostly, they try to slow down opponents.
"Georgetown will definitely see some pressure defense from us. We might press 70 to 80 percent of the time," said Memphis State Coach Dana Kirk, who scouted the Georgetown-Alcorn State game from courtside. "That's not because Alcorn State gave them problems with it, but because that's what we do best."
Memphis State also will run fast breaks if the opportunity arises. Otherwise, the Tigers will pull up the offense and keep passing until they can get the ball inside zone defenses to Lee, who averages 18.6 points and 10.6 rebounds per game, or to 6-9 center Derrick Phillips (8.4 points). Guard Phillip Haynes (13.7 points) is the team's outside shooter, the zone breaker.
Kirk said his team will play mostly man-to-man defense against Georgetown, with Phillips going against 7-foot Patrick Ewing. "We'll start that way and see how it goes," Kirk said.
The key to Memphis State, though, is Lee. "He represents problems for us because he can go outside or post low," said Thompson. Talented in so many ways, Lee has not only been compared to some of basketball's past greats, but he has also been compared to Elvis Presley, in the way he has captivated the River City.
"I'm getting used to hearing that," said Lee, the unassuming Metro Conference player of the year last year, a first-team all-America this season. "I let them talk. I just try to do my thing."
After winning its first 11 games this year, Memphis State was rewarded with the No. 1 ranking in mid-January. That same night, though, the Tigers lost at Virginia Tech, 69-56. There went the top ranking.
The most serious trouble for Memphis State has been inconsistency, with three juniors, a freshman and a sophomore starting. After a 17-1 start, Memphis State's record is 5-6. Three straight losses to Louisville (by nine, two and three points), two straight two-point losses to Tulane and one two-point loss to Florida State account for the defeats in this sickly streak.
The sources of these troubles were, beyond a difficult end-of-the-season schedule, an inability to break efficient zone defenses (something Memphis State is sure to encounter against Georgetown) and Lee's own shooting inconsistencies.
Still, Kirk will say, "We lost five of those games inside the last 15-20 seconds of the game. Four of those games we lost on last-second shots. In all four of those games, the other team had the ball for the last shot."