- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 6, 2001

GEORGETOWN 81, PITTSBURGH 67

PITTSBURGH Rarely has revenge been so Sweet.

Powered by freshman forward Mike Sweetney, Georgetown force-fed Pittsburgh a huge slice of payback pie last night at Fitzgerald Field House, stuffing the Panthers 81-67 before a muted crowd of 6,511.

It was obvious that the 15th-ranked Hoyas (19-3, 6-3 Big East) hadn't forgotten their first disappointment of the season, an embarrassing 70-66 home loss to the unheralded Panthers on Jan. 20. In that game, which ended the Hoyas' streak of season-opening victories at 16, Georgetown failed to score for nearly four excruciating minutes at the game's end.

"We wanted them really bad," said Sweetney, who dropped a career-high 24 points on the Panthers (12-9, 4-6).

"We just wanted to play smarter [than we did last time]. Smarter like slowing the pace down, playing good defense throughout the whole 35-second clock, making better decisions and shot selections, making our free throws and concentrating more."

The Hoyas did all of the above during an opus of a first half that saw Georgetown make 63 percent of its shots, force 12 turnovers and hold the Panthers to their second-worst 20-minute output of the season.

"I'm not sure we can shoot the ball any better than that," said Georgetown coach Craig Esherick after watching his team take a 42-22 lead into intermission before cruising to victory. "I think they were very up for the game, as you saw in the first half."

On the offensive end, Sweetney was virtually unstoppable all night. Not only did the 6-foot-8 freshman from Oxon Hill, Md., make 10 of his 16 field goal attempts, but the nimble 260-pounder also handed out five assists, almost outstripping the home team by himself during the first half.

Time and again, Sweetney locked one of the lighter Panther frontcourt players on his hip on the low block, spread himself out to present a broad target to the Georgetown guards, received an entry pass and went to work. If Pittsburgh chose to guard him with just one man, he simply spun around his defender for a deuce or a trip to the free throw line. And when Pittsburgh finally decided to double-team him out of desperation, Sweetney made the Panthers pay with his uncanny ability to immediately find the open man.

"The [five assists] were nice," Sweetney said. "When they bring the double-team, you've got to recognize it and get rid of the ball to your teammates. That's my thing."

But defense has long been the team's trademark. And while Sweetney was brilliant on the offensive blocks, his teammates were equally dominating at the other end of the floor, employing an aggressive man-to-man set that harried the Panthers' attack into pass-around-the-perimeter-for-30-seconds-and-then-panic.

"I thought that the last time we played them we were too passive on defense," Esherick said. "We really only played about four or five possessions of fullcourt defense the last time we played them. I was upset with myself because I didn't think we did it enough, so this time I made a conscious decision and we played every single possession fullcourt."

Pittsburgh sniper Julius Page, who nailed four of six bombs from behind the arc and finished with a game-high 18 points in the first meeting, made only one 3-pointer last night and finished with only nine points.

"I took that matchup personally," said Georgetown senior guard Anthony Perry, who spent the entire evening hounding Page. "He really hurt us the first time and gave their offense a lift, so I was determined to deny him the ball."

About the only thing that didn't go perfectly as planned for the Hoyas was the game's finishing stretch. After claiming a 25-point lead on a 3-pointer by Demetrius Hunter with 18:28 remaining the Hoyas seemed to lose interest in their humiliated opponent. That left them with a somewhat unsatisfactory and misleading final margin.

"I think I let them have it a little bit in the locker room because that's not the way you close a game," said Esherick, who next leads his team into Providence on Saturday night. "But it was a solid performance overall, and I'm pretty happy with a road victory against a Big East team."

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