- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 29, 2012

PITTSBURGH — During a timeout with three minutes remaining in Saturday’s basketball game between Georgetown and Pittsburgh, pandemonium gripped the Petersen Events Center.

Some 1,500 gold-shirted members of the Oakland Zoo student section bounced up and down, stomping on the shredded newspapers they used for a stunt during player introductions.

The decade-old arena’s speakers blasted “Shout.”

“Say you will,” the song urged.

Gold pom-poms pumped in the air.

Even shouting wasn’t loud enough to communicate with a person sitting next to you, as the arena seemed to shake.

After losing eight of its past nine games, Pittsburgh’s upset of No. 9 Georgetown was all but finished. And the questions for Georgetown were starting, after Pittsburgh’s 72-60 victory kept the Panthers undefeated against top-10 teams since the Petersen Events Center opened.

Nine regular-season games remain for Georgetown’s young team. But a handful of problems beset the Hoyas against Pittsburgh — picked to finish fourth in the Big East before an injury to point guard Tray Woodall threw it off track — that send ripples beyond one game.

After a seven-day layoff, Georgetown’s hallmark defense disappeared on trip after trip down the court. Pittsburgh converted an eye-opening series of uncontested dunks and layups, many without a defender anywhere nearby, en route to 32 points in the paint. Georgetown’s transition defense frequently broke down, too.

“They got everything that they wanted,” visibly upset coach John Thompson III said after the game, “and when they didn’t, they got a rebound.”

Georgetown never led, as Pittsburgh’s advantage ballooned to as many as 17 points. Yes, Georgetown’s surge in the second half cut its deficit to five points. And senior Jason Clark played solid defense on shifty guard Ashton Gibbs, the Big East’s preseason player of the year.

But the defense couldn’t stop surrendering layups and dunks easier than any halftime shooting contest. Thompson labeled the defense “awful.”

No one from Thompson to Clark to senior Henry Sims had clear answers, aside from pointing to miscommunication. Lots of it.

But problems extended beyond porous defense, as Georgetown enters a challenging stretch hosting Connecticut on Wednesday and traveling to Syracuse next week that could challenge its early-season momentum.

Junior Hollis Thompson’s unpredictable offensive play continued. The swingman is healthy, John Thompson III said. Georgetown’s leading scorer finished with 11 points, eight of those in the final 53.4 seconds with the game decided. That left the previous 37 minutes and 19 seconds where Thompson went without a basket.

That mirrored Thompson’s recent struggles: He didn’t score in the second half against Cincinnati or Rutgers and was without a basket in the first half against St. John’s.

The struggles extended to forward Nate Lubick, who usually does the dirty work in the post, but didn’t score and pulled down two rebounds in 20 minutes.

Earlier this season, John Thompson III said Georgetown can’t afford for Lubick to have those kind of games.

The same could be said of Georgetown’s interior defensive struggles.

“Everything that shouldn’t have happened on the defensive end happened,” said the coach, believing the solution to the breakdowns sits in practice.

Ample time remains for Georgetown to address the issues that brought forth the pandemonium in Pittsburgh. Otherwise, Saturday’s choruses of “Shout” won’t be the last it hears.



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