The Georgetown Hoyas' manpower shortage seems to worsen with virtually every game, but Dikembe Mutombo continues to ease the sting.

On an evening when Alonzo Mourning's injury began to sound distinctly long-term and forward Brian Kelly was added to the Hoyas' list of walking wounded, Mutombo provided a bit of life in keying last night's 78-54 drubbing of Jackson State before 6,073 at Capital Centre.

Georgetown made a concerted effort to feed the ball inside to Mutombo continually, and the 7-foot-2 senior center responded with a series of dunks and short hooks over a procession of overwhelmed Tigers. Mutombo finished with a career-best 34 points and 10 rebounds in 33 minutes, and Georgetown (8-2) rarely was threatened in its final tuneup before Saturday's Big East Conference opener against Seton Hall.

"He's a lot better up close than he looks on TV," Jackson State Coach Lee Stoglin said of Mutombo. "He goes at one speed, and it's hard. He's like a robot: He does just what you want him to do."

Unfortunately for the 15th-ranked Hoyas, it was not merely a night to marvel at Mutombo. The blowout was in full effect with 12 1/2 minutes to play when a semi-disaster struck. Kelly was tripped as he drove the lane, landed awkwardly on his left foot and was carried off the court.

He applied an ice bag to his ankle for the rest of the game, and although he insisted afterward that the injury was not serious, his leaving the arena on crutches was an ominous sign.

"All I can say right now is that it's sore," Kelly said. "Beyond that, I don't really know."

The Hoyas can ill afford any more ailments, for they ended the night as a team basically six players deep. Sophomore guard Antoine Stoudamire left the squad last week, sophomore forward Mike Sabol remains unavailable for academic reasons and Mourning and Kelly are hurt.

Mourning again was on the Georgetown bench in street clothes, nursing the strained arch that's now hampered his left foot for nearly a month. Coach John Thompson already has ruled out the possibility of his 6-10 junior foward playing Saturday, and it doesn't appear that Mourning's return is imminent.

According to Thompson, Mourning still is limited to "non-weight-bearing exercises" as he tries to remain in shape. Team officials once thought surgery might be necessary, Thompson said, but a bone scan was performed and no stress fracture was located.

"It's just in a bad place," said Thompson, who indicated that he has no timetable in mind for Mourning's return. "We've tried sporadically to rest and play, and now he'll rest. We're just waiting for him to tell us he's ready."

Georgetown has had to restructure its offense somewhat in Mourning's absence, and against opponents like Jackson State the renewed emphasis on finding Mutombo in the lane actually is a blessing. The Tigers (5-9) could offer as resistance only 6-8 Robert Carter and 6-7 Eric Strothers, neither of whom even played high school basketball.

They were given a quick lesson in the college game last night. Mutombo had four dunks, four layups and six free throws during a first half in which he made nine of 10 field goal attempts and had 24 points, 8 rebounds, 2 blocked shots and 3 steals. The Hoyas led, 44-23, at halftime and by as many as 31 points in the second half.

Freshman guard Charles Harrison scored 18 points for Georgetown, which limited Jackson State to 30 percent shooting (including seven-for-29 accuracy in the first half) and forced 19 turnovers. Strothers led the Tigers with 19 points, and guard Lindsey Hunter provided 18 despite six-of-23 misfiring from the field.

"We really had a tougher time trying to score against Georgetown than we did against Arkansas {a 126-88 victor over Jackson State Saturday}," Stoglin said. " . . . You get Mourning back with that team and assuming that the young kids grow up a little bit, and that's going to be one hell of a team by tournament time."