The Georgetown Hoyas knew this season would bring a strange and probably bumpy ride, that they'd live by their freshmen and likely would suffer with them sometimes too. They hardly could have anticipated that the lows could be so low and the highs so high within a single event like Saturday's invigorating 73-65 win over Seton Hall in their Big East Conference opener at Capital Centre.

If ever there was a night to beat Georgetown -- and Pirates Coach P.J. Carlesimo was quick to point this out during his postgame brooding -- that was it. The 15th-ranked Hoyas were without injured Alonzo Mourning for the sixth time in seven games; his usual replacement, junior forward Brian Kelly, was able to play just one minute on a sore left ankle.

So Georgetown started four freshmen instead of its usual three, and the Hoyas' depth was so depleted that their starters averaged 35 minutes of court time apiece while their bench totaled a paltry one point and two rebounds. Their freshman guards, Joey Brown and Charles Harrison, shot a combined one for 12 from the field in the first half -- a half in which the entire Georgetown team could muster but six field goals.

Seton Hall (9-2, 2-1 in the Big East) wasn't much better, but still led, 42-33, on reserve forward Jerry Walker's three-point play with 14 1/2 minutes to play. "Things didn't look too good for us," Hoyas senior center Dikembe Mutombo said later.

Then came the burst, a four-minute explosion of steals and layups and breathtaking dominance that evoked visions of the most disruptive Georgetown clubs of years past. Brown spurred it but everyone eventually joined in, and when it was done the Hoyas had reeled off 18 straight points and had a 51-42 lead.

They coasted from there, completing a 28-for-34 performance at the free throw line and weathering a few modest Seton Hall charges. The Pirates played without Oliver Taylor, their injured senior point guard, but Carlesimo was not in a mood to accept excuses.

"I'm not going to just put this one behind us," he said during a calm but stern denouncement of his team afterward. "This is something you've got to address. . . . I thought our effort was very, very lacking, and I'm disappointed. . . . Without trying to take away from what Georgetown accomplished, you'd have to say we beat ourselves."

The Hoyas (9-2) chose to paint a slightly different picture, though. They talked about their courage and resolve, and they distributed praise to virtually every corner of their locker room. But the most glowing applause was reserved for Brown, the stockily built, 5-foot-10 spark plug of a point guard who has been quick to put his stamp of leadership on this team.

"In the second half, I thought Joey Brown went up another level and took us with him," Coach John Thompson said. Brown has been a favorite of Thompson's from the start of preseason practice, and he has ably filled the playmaking void left by the graduation of Dwayne Bryant and the departure of David Edwards from last year's club.

The Morgan City, La., native insists he didn't expect to start when he came to Georgetown, that he set out simply to work hard enough to try to catch Thompson's eye in practice and hoped for some meaningful playing time. "It's a lot different than playing in high school," Brown said. "You can't let up for a minute. I'm just trying to hold my own."

And, of course, Thompson is not as bubbly about Brown behind the closed doors of McDonough Gymnasium on practice days as he is publicly; even Brown often feels the wrath of the coach's considerable lung capacity. "He's not easy on anyone," Brown said. "He keeps me going, keeps me motivated."

But Brown and Harrison, who combined for 32 second-half points Saturday, have eased the sting of what might have been a disastrous early-season injury to Mourning. Instead, the Hoyas may have steeled themselves for a day in March when Mourning or Mutombo is sick, hurt or in foul trouble.

And it doesn't hurt, either, that the early Big East schedule is kind: The Hoyas get Providence on the road Tuesday, then Boston College at home and Villanova away. By the time Syracuse, Pittsburgh and St. John's come along later this month, Georgetown should have Mourning available again.

"We can't sit around worrying that we don't have Alonzo," Harrison said. "We all have to do our parts. . . . Brown got us going {Saturday}, and we all kind of followed his lead. That's the kind of game that's good for our confidence."