HOUSTON, DEC. 9 -- The Georgetown Hoyas were force-fed a glimpse of life without Alonzo Mourning Saturday night at The Summit, and it was frightening.

With Mourning ailing, dressed in coat and tie and all but strapped to the bench, the Hoyas started four freshmen. Senior Dikembe Mutombo was treated rudely without his comrade in the lane and Georgetown found itself facing a second-half deficit against unimposing Rice.

Yet Georgetown's predicament ultimately yielded satisfaction as well as shudders, for the sixth-ranked Hoyas used a late surge to rally to a 53-47 win that made them 5-0. And, with Mourning's foot injury apparently not serious, Coach John Thompson and his players talked about the positives -- better outside shooting, tough perimeter defense and seemingly unshakable resolve.

Thompson was quick to remind that he doesn't want to become accustomed to playing without Mourning, who strained the arch in his left foot landing awkwardly after making his victory-preserving block against Duke's Brian Davis on Wednesday. But he said he also found a benefit in the opportunity to play raw 7-foot-2 freshman Pascal Fleury, who started in Mourning's place and provided 12 creditable minutes despite nary a point or rebound.

Freshman guards Joey Brown and Charles Harrison shot six for 19, but keyed an early surge to a 10-point lead and assured that the Owls (3-2) would face an uphill battle.

Forward Robert Churchwell was quiet, but his Gonzaga High teammate of a year ago, Lamont Morgan, provided a spark in relief and spearheaded frenzied full-court pressure defense that had Thompson searching for superlatives.

"This team has the potential to be better {defensively} on the perimeter than the teams we've had in quite a long time," Thompson said. Indeed, the Hoyas' traditionally suffocating, chest-to-chest pressure had subsided in recent seasons for lack of quickness at a position or two, and the twin-towers deployment of Mourning and Mutombo promised to hinder Georgetown's ability to ballhawk again this year.

But the Hoyas' combinations of half- and full-court pressure unnerved No. 5 Duke and forced Rice into a disjointed approach that produced miserable shooting. Hoyas opponents are hitting 32 percent.

"That's not just a good defensive team; it's a great defensive team," Rice guard Dana Hardy said. " . . . I can only imagine what it's like when Mourning's in there too."

The Hoyas were at their secretive best in guarding Mourning's injury. The 6-10 junior said Saturday he hurt immediately after the Duke game, but he didn't so much as drop a hint to reporters. Team officials didn't reveal that Mourning missed practice and refused even to disclose the Hoyas' workout time to media here; the first word he wouldn't play came about an hour before game time.

Thompson said Mourning "has a high pain threshold" and likely would have played had he been allowed. But Mourning said the foot still was sore. The Hoyas have the luxury of being cautious to a fault, for they next play St. Leo Wednesday at Capital Centre before hosting Texas-El Paso Saturday.