- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 25, 2004

A nearly nine minute scoring drought in the second half ruined Georgetown’s golden opportunity to clinch a Big East tournament berth.

The long dry spell enabled No.3 Pittsburgh to overcome a double-digit second-half deficit and send the Hoyas to a 68-58 loss, their season high fifth-straight, before 11,876 at MCI Center.

Pittsburgh sophomore point guard Carl Krauser scored 11 of his 26 points during the 19-0 second-half run to rally the Big East’s best team. Georgetown had led by as much as 10 in the second half and was up 39-31 with 12:53 left before going scoreless for the next 8:46.

The Hoyas (13-11, 4-9 Big East) received some help last night when Seton Hall defeated Miami, but Georgetown could have clinched a spot in the conference tournament March 10-13 with a victory. Only 12 of the Big East’s 14 teams get a berth, and the Hoyas will get in with a victory in their final three games or a Hurricanes (13-15, 3-11) loss in their final two. Georgetown owns the tiebreaker over Miami by virtue of sweeping both games against the Hurricanes.

After a sluggish first half in which he scored only seven points, Krauser finished with a career high on 7-for-14 shooting. Krauser, in his first year as a starter, has led Pittsburgh (25-2, 11-2) to the most victories of any Division I team.

“I felt that we were down and I needed to get some points. I didn’t know what was going to happen,” said Krauser, who finished with nine rebounds and three assists. “I definitely felt I had to step up because I don’t want to let my team down. My main focus here is to get wins.”

With this loss, the Hoyas are assured of their second straight losing season in conference play. They also failed to guarantee a .500 record for the season, which would qualify them for a berth in the NIT.

Guard Gerald Riley led the Hoyas with 25 points, but most of them came before the shooting slump.

“A couple of things hurt us in that stretch when they caught up. The first thing was I thought we got tired,” Georgetown coach Craig Esherick said. “When we got tired, I thought our shot selection started getting tired, and I thought because we got tired we stopped rebounding the way we had during the course of the first part of the game.”

Pittsburgh freshman center Chris Taft, a leading candidate for Big East rookie of the year, finished with 12 points and 12 rebounds for his fifth career double-double.

Georgetown couldn’t have played better defense in the first half, which ended with the Hoyas ahead 28-20. Georgetown forced the Panthers to commit 14 first-half turnovers and allowed only 20 points, the fewest Pittsburgh has scored in a half all season.

“I don’t really compare first halves or second halves or what was the worst of the year,” Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon said. “Sometimes with our record, everybody expects the perfect game. The good teams are the ones that respond and adjust to things throughout a game.”

The Hoyas mixed up their halfcourt defenses, going from man-to-man to a 2-3 zone, and Pittsburgh was uncharacteristically sloppy in the first half. The Panthers had averaged 12.7 turnovers a game before last night, but Georgetown’s active defense threw Pittsburgh’s motion offense into disarray.

In fact, in the final 5:54 before the half, Georgetown forced the Panthers to turn the ball over on seven of their final 10 possessions. And many of the 14 turnovers were by Pittsburgh’s primary ballhandlers; Krauser, swingman Jaron Brown and forward Chevon Troutman committed four turnovers apiece.

“We slowed everything down. We were running at their pace for a little bit and trying to force things, but the second half came, and we started playing our game,” said Troutman, who finished with 13 points and eight rebounds.

Georgetown bolted to a 26-13 lead with 5:09 left in the half. The 13-point lead tied the Panthers’ largest deficit this season. In a Feb. 7 game at Notre Dame, Pittsburgh trailed 15-2 before recovering for a 66-58 win.

The Hoyas also shut down Pittsburgh’s second-leading scorer, Julius Page, who came in averaging 12.6 points. Page was scoreless in the first half, missed all seven of his shots from the floor in the game and finished with four points.

Meanwhile, Georgetown’s offense held its own against the Panthers, whose man-to-man defense has allowed only 57 points a game, the sixth fewest in the nation.

Riley, Georgetown’s leading scorer and senior co-captain, led all scorers in the first half with 10 points on 4-for-10 shooting. Sophomore point guard Ashanti Cook added eight points in the half, including two 3-pointers that helped give the Hoyas a double-digit lead for much of the first half.

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