TAMPA, DEC. 28 -- In one of the less noticed, but more intriguing matchups this college basketball season, the 16th-ranked Georgetown Hoyas and their 7-foot-2 Zairean center, Dikembe Mutombo, will try to end a two-game losing streak Saturday against the Houston Cougars and their 7-1 Colombian center, Alvaro Teheran.

It will be the first college basketball game played at the Florida Suncoast Dome in St. Petersburg.

The unknown in this equation is Georgetown's 6-10 junior forward Alonzo Mourning, who apparently remains hobbled by the strained arch that has sidelined him for three of the Hoyas' last four games.

Georgetown Coach John Thompson indicated Mourning would play but said he would do so "sparingly."

"He's worked out lightly the last two days," said Thompson, whose team is 6-2. "He hasn't practiced other than that. I think what we want to do is get a feel for it. I think you can expect to see him play sparingly, but I'll want to get a feel from the game, and a feel from him, in terms of how much we'll be able to play him."

Thompson did say that "we hope to start trying to work {Mourning} in a little bit more" because of the impending start of Big East play. However, that also is a reason to be cautious -- even if the Hoyas' losses to Texas-El Paso and sixth-ranked Ohio State put them on the verge of their longest nonconference losing streak since they entered the Big East in 1979-80. Prior to those games, they had not lost two consecutive nonconference games since December 1982, when Virginia and American beat them.

Houston (8-1) is capable of making it three straight. Off to their best start since 1983-84, when they began 10-1 and lost to Georgetown in the NCAA tournament final, the Cougars have lost only to 12th-ranked South Carolina. In that game, they shot 34.8 percent but still went to overtime before losing, 74-70.

Their degree of success is something of a surprise, given that star forward Craig Upchurch, a 6-8 senior, never got on the court this season because of a herniated disk.

But Teheran has emerged after a summer's worth of weightlifting and pick-up games that often involved the Houston Rockets' Akeem Olajuwon and Otis Thorpe.

The native of Cartagena began his collegiate career with two years at Houston Baptist, which then dropped its program. He played a reserve role for the Cougars last season, but now, in just his fifth year of organized basketball, is averaging 16.3 points, 10.2 rebounds and 2.5 blocked shots per game. That puts him in just about the same neighborhood as Mutombo (14.1 points, 11.4 rebounds, 5.9 blocks).

"I think he saw the end of the line coming and thought he should make the best of it," Houston Coach Pat Foster said.

The Cougars' other pillars in a starting five are 6-3 senior guard Byron Smith and 6-5 senior forward Darrell Mickens. Mickens, whose vertical jump is more than 40 inches, leads the team with more than 11 rebounds per game. Smith, its leading scorer with more than 20 points per game, is the designated shooter on a team that takes about one-third of its shots from three-point range. He has made 45 percent of his three-pointers.