De Paul worked on all the things necessary to beat Georgetown yesterday in practice, especially beating the Hoyas' maddening press. It even used six defenders as the first team tried to bring the ball up court.
"Everybody knows what they need to do to beat them," De Paul Coach Joey Meyer said. "The thing is, they just can't do it."
De Paul is one of the very few teams that can do it. The second-ranked Blue Demons will get that chance this afternoon, beginning at 3:45 (WDVM-TV-9) in sold-out Capital Centre, when they meet top-ranked Georgetown.
The Hoyas lost last year at De Paul en route to winning the national championship. That is only one reason why this is such an attractive early-season game.
Each team is 6-0. Georgetown has the best collegiate player in the land in all-America Patrick Ewing. But De Paul has 6-foot-9 sophomore Dallas Comegys, whose greatest asset might be that he is intimidated by nobody.
De Paul thinks point guard Kenny Patterson is one of the best in the country. He'd better be today if the Demons expect to do anything against Georgetown's press, which is capable of befuddling any team in the nation.
The best part may be that the game means almost nothing in the season-long picture of college basketball, unless the winner remains undefeated.
"This is fun for college basketball," Meyer said yesterday after practice at the University of Maryland. "Win or lose, it's not the end of the season for either team. It's a good game to have this time of year and fun for the kids."
Georgetown Coach John Thompson was not available for comment yesterday. But he cautioned earlier this week that the Hoyas are not unbeatable, and although they may become a great team, they aren't there yet.
If the Hoyas are that much better than the next-best team in college basketball, the rest of their opponents are in trouble. But the odds makers, who rate the Hoyas a 9 1/2-point favorite, might have been overlooking one advantage De Paul has over most teams Georgetown will play.
The Demons don't scare easy. That factor cannot be underestimated against a team as big, as deep, as intense and as defensively oriented as the Hoyas.
"People come in scared of Georgetown," Meyer said. "You should respect them and what they've accomplished. But if you fear them, you've got no chance.
"I'm more relaxed than I thought I'd be for some reason," said Meyer, in his first year succeeding his father Ray. "Maybe that's because I know we go out there and play hard. I just feel we're prepared and we'll go out there and give it our all."
Or maybe it's because Meyer's most talented player, Comegys, has a habit of playing well in important games. He was scoreless Wednesday night against Penn State, but beat Georgetown last season with a late tip-in.
"That's been his history," Meyer said. "I've told him that to be a great player, he's got to play consistently. But he's been going after it pretty well the last two days in practice."
Comegys, who concedes he gets fired up for nationally televised games, said recently, "It does seem to happen that way . . . Lights, cameras, action!"
More so than Comegys, perhaps, Patterson is the crucial factor for the Blue Demons. Georgetown can shake and rattle a good point guard and wear him down in a hurry.
"Kenny will need help," Meyer said. "He can't do it alone. The entire team will have to handle the ball. What's also important is that Georgetown plays with so much intensity, they almost force you to quicken your pace. You can do that, but you've got to be under control."
Meyer has been more concerned with his team's defense and rebounding. Comegys is averaging only 4.3 rebounds per game, about three under last year's average.
Some observers might think about De Paul in terms of offense, and probably don't realize that it held opponents to 43 percent shooting last year, second in the nation only to Georgetown's record 39 percent.
De Paul's opponents are shooting 42 percent this season, but that doesn't stop Meyer from worrying. Asked what any team could do differently against Ewing, Meyer said, "I think Patrick Ewing has pretty much seen it all by now."
Ewing showed off a new, and pretty, sky hook Wednesday night against American. "I've had it since last year," he said. "And I probably should use it more than I do."
Although some believe Georgetown is so far and away better than any other team in college basketball, that De Paul won't come close, Bob Donewald, the coach at Illinois State, is not among that group. His team lost, at home, to De Paul by 13.
"If there's a big advantage one way or the other, I don't see it," he said. "I would say that De Paul . . . is better in critical situations. Instead of making poor judgments, they seem quite able to handle the pressure better, and analyze and stay with what is working."
Georgetown's Billy Martin, who has been playing extremely well so far at small forward or power forward, said he has seen De Paul "only in spots. But I know they'll run if they have it, they can play a good half-court game, and they don't quit if they fall behind."