- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 25, 2007

The 12th-ranked Georgetown basketball team committed six turnovers and scored a mere five points in the first 5:19 of the game against 10th-ranked Pittsburgh on Fun Street yesterday.

This was emblematic of the torturous but passionate affair between the two leading teams of the Big East Conference.

Neither contingent was able to find a measure of continuity or a modicum of comfort on offense, which resulted in a massive dose of tedium that could not be exorcised by the exhortations of the 20,038 in attendance.

Yet a late spurt orchestrated by Jeff Green allowed the Hoyas to outlast the Panthers 61-53 and move into first place in the conference.

The 11th consecutive victory of the Hoyas was a testament to their depth and defense to win in an aesthetically displeasing fashion.

Georgetown granted Pittsburgh 22 rebounds on offense, which enabled the Panthers to finish with 20 more field goal attempts than the Hoyas.

The Hoyas also saw the Panthers go on a 13-0 run early in the second half that resulted in a six-point deficit and a sense the game was slipping away. The run was aided in part by four consecutive misses at the foul line, two each by Green and DaJuan Summers.

Hoyas coach John Thompson III diagnosed part of the problem as jitters, especially in the first half.

“We were extremely nervous in the first half,” he said. “Very anxious. Very antsy. No doubt about it. But that is human nature.”

As much as the Hoyas labored to find a level of cohesiveness, the Panthers essentially disappeared from the offensive end in the final 12-plus minutes.

After Levon Kendall hit a 15-footer to give the Panthers a 41-36 lead with 12:59 left, that ended up being the last push of the visitors.

They would score only 12 points the rest of the way. They would score only four points in the final 5:56.

As strong as the defense of the Hoyas was, Thompson said, “They missed some shots, too, that they had been making earlier in the game.”

Green, hampered by early foul trouble, made several telling plays that turned the contest in favor of the Hoyas.

His short baseline jumper with 5:25 left tied the game at 49-all.

He then made a high-level read and passed the ball to Jessie Sapp on a backdoor cut that led to a layup and the Hoyas going up 51-49 with 3:24 left.

Green, one of the leading candidates to become the Big East player of the year, sealed the issue with a steal and a 45-foot baseball pass to Sapp that yielded a layup, a six-point lead with 1:59 left and a sigh of relief among the faithful painted in blue.

“I can put him at any spot on the floor, and he can be an effective player,” Thompson said of the 6-foot-9 forward from Hyattsville.

Thompson was not inclined to belabor the stunning ascent of his team, not with a game in Syracuse, N.Y., tomorrow night.

There is too much season left to get caught in the whimsical prospect of the Hoyas securing a No. 1 or 2 seed in the NCAA tournament next month.

There is too much film to study, too much tinkering to do. It all could go wrong in the Carrier Dome.

The Hoyas certainly flirted with disappointment on this chilly day in late February.

They endured the early foul trouble of Green and then the late foul trouble of Roy Hibbert.

The long rebound was their game-long curse, eased only because of the rim-clanging efforts of the Panthers’ perimeter shooters.

“That just can’t happen,” Thompson said of the Panthers’ offensive rebounding.

But it did happen. And it happened with the Hoyas in a funk much of the game.

And yet the Hoyas persevered, which possibly bodes well for them next month.

Finding a way to win, when your best stuff is not at your disposal, will be the challenge before all the nation’s leading teams next month.

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