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Shattered on the glass

- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 4, 2009

Reality landed on Georgetown in the form of Pittsburgh center DeJuan Blair.

Five days removed from a signature victory at No. 2 Connecticut, the 11th-ranked Hoyas absorbed a humbling defeat. Powered by Blair's 20-point, 17-rebound performance, the No. 3 Panthers pummeled Georgetown 70-54 Saturday at Verizon Center.

Pittsburgh (14-0, 2-0 Big East) dominated the paint with its frontcourt of Blair, Tyrell Biggs (14 points) and Sam Young (14 points, eight rebounds), ending the Hoyas' 29-game home-court winning streak courtesy of a 48-23 rebounding edge. The Panthers parlayed 20 offensive rebounds into 24 second-chance points and never trailed.

"In many ways you do throw [the film of the game] away, because that's the type of game that sits in your stomach. But we don't have time for that, because we have a game on Monday [at [JUMP]No. 7 Notre Dame]," Georgetown coach John Thompson III said. "That's the nature of this league, and to a certain extent this year: You have to bounce back. You're going to have to figure out what to take from it and immediately focus on what's ahead of you."

What's ahead of the Hoyas (10-2, 1-1) is the final leg of a daunting trio of opening conference games (at No. 2 Connecticut, vs. No. 3 Pittsburgh, at No. 7 Notre Dame). Although the Irish (10-3, 1-1) are less imposing on paper than the Huskies and Panthers, they feature the league's reigning player of the year in center Luke Harangody and the nation's second longest home winning streak (43 games).

If the Hoyas don't do a better job of rebounding at the Joyce Center, Notre Dame will make it 44 straight.

"Is it deflating to see them get a rebound after forcing a difficult shot on defense? Yes, of course it is," Thompson said. "We could have done a better job rebounding, and we have to get better at that. I'm not sure how."

After outplaying preseason All-American Hasheem Thabeet in Hartford, Conn., Georgetown freshman center Greg Monroe (15 points, eight rebounds) looked sluggish and lost against Blair. Seconds after the opening tip, Blair sealed off Monroe on one end for his first basket and then flashed in front of a lazy entry pass to Monroe on the other end, taking the steal 94 feet for a layup.

"I was playing with something on my back - them picking this young cat against me," Blair said. "I wasn't going to take it."

In spite of Pittsburgh's dominance on the boards, Georgetown stayed close in the game's opening 26 minutes thanks to a superb shooting effort from junior forward DaJuan Summers (22 points). Though the harbingers were obvious as the Hoyas answered Pittsburgh's point-blank looks in the paint with contested jumpers, Summers tied it at 40 on a 3-pointer with 16:12 remaining.

But the Panthers responded to the first real rumblings of the partisan crowd by scoring on 15 of their next 17 possessions. They smothered Summers and dared another Georgetown player to beat them. On offense, they took charge with a series of midrange jumpers and relied on Blair to clean up the occasional miss with an offensive rebound and follow-up layup. The result was a steady run and suspense-killing 70-50 lead when Blair collected and powered home another perimeter miss with 1:44 remaining.

"[Blair] is really strong and deceptively long. He knows how to use his strength and his width," Monroe said. "Today we just got outworked and they were the better team."