By basketball standards, Howard can barely muster a quorum these days. Nine players suited up against Georgetown last night at MCI Center--and the outcome started to become obvious a few minutes after tip-off.

"More even than nine players is four games in six days," Howard Coach Kirk Saulny said after the 78-37 rout. "That's impossible."

The combination of the tired and undermanned Bison and the well-rested and very deep Hoyas produced several unusual results in the first-ever meeting between the teams. They included the Bison (0-5) going the first 11 minutes of the second half without a point and missing 45 of 58 shots for the game.

Georgetown (3-3) earned 34 points off 21 turnovers, most with a variety of presses and traps. Guard Anthony Perry's eight steals were two short of the school record Allen Iverson set against Miami nearly four years ago. Coach Craig Esherick then dumped the burden of expectations on the defense.

"We have the potential to have a very good defensive team," he said. "Very good. As good as we've had."

In centers Ruben Boumtje Boumtje and Jameel Watkins and freshman forwards Courtland Freeman and Victor Samnick, Esherick has capable shot blockers. Freshman guard Demetrius Hunter reminds Esherick of Gene Smith and other former relentless defenders on the perimeter.

Saulny also is fairly certain of what he has--and is anything but upbeat.

"We're two or three guys short of being able to compete physically," he said. "I've got guys who look like they're playing hard but they really can't play at this level. I've probably got six legitimate players at this level."

Georgetown's theme for the early going was Feed The Post. Nothing--other than breakaways--was going anywhere but inside, either to Watkins or Boumtje Boumtje. And the much smaller Bison had no counters, as Watkins hit a little flip-hook, a stuff on a three-on-one fast break and a layup off a pass from Perry for the game's first six points.

Howard scored on a hook shot by Nick Dodson. Then, after two foul shots by Kevin Braswell, Boumtje Boumtje scored inside before and after a three-pointer by Antonio Michell. That gave Georgetown a 12-5 lead--and then the Hoyas slipped into overdrive.

Defense triggered a 17-0 assault, with five steals leading to layups or dunks by Nat Burton and Hunter and easy pull-up jumpers by Braswell, Perry and Samnick.

The Hunter dunk that increased Georgetown's lead to 27-5 finished the most impressive sequence. Watkins and Braswell trapped guard Jonathan Stokes near midcourt--and when he tried to pass inside, Perry intercepted the ball and tossed it ahead to Hunter.

About 10 feet from the basket, Hunter rocketed off the floor for a magnificent dunk. In Howard's 11-minute scoreless stretch that opened the second half, the Hoyas scored 26 points and led by 67-21 before Michell hit a three-pointer.

Esherick set several goals and came close to fulfilling all of them. He wanted good shots--and the Hoyas had 23 assists on their 28 field goals. He wanted 40 foul shots--and the Hoyas earned 31 and made 20.

The only worry came late in the second half, when Freeman limped off the court. Esherick feared he'd reinjured the bone nearest the second toe of his left foot. The original injury happened near the end of August, and Freeman still is not in game shape.

It turned out to be a turned left ankle, and Esherick said Freeman should be close to full strength for Wednesday's game at MCI against Bethune-Cookman.