- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 14, 2007

PITTSBURGH — For the first time all season, Georgetown was simply beaten by a superior team.

The Hoyas arrived at No. 7 Pittsburgh with no one to blame but themselves for their first four losses of the season, all of which were the direct result of poor execution and indifferent effort against comparable (Duke and Oregon) or inferior personnel (Old Dominion and Villanova).

Last night, the Hoyas failed on neither count, playing solidly and determinedly on both ends of the floor, only to come up short against the Big East’s blue and gold bullies.

Courtesy of a shooting performance reminiscent of the most deflating night in the history of Georgetown basketball (1985 NCAA title game), the Panthers edged the Hoyas 74-69 at Petersen Events Center in a masterful show worthy of March in Madison Square Garden.

“When two teams shoot 60 percent, I guess nobody played any defense,” Georgetown coach John Thompson III jested after his Hoyas shot 60.9 percent only to lose to a Panthers team that torched the nets at 59.6 percent. “Honestly, they shoot 60 percent, and I felt like we guarded them pretty well. That’s a very, very good team. … When you make a mistake, they capitalize on it, and it seemed like they capitalized on every one of our mistakes tonight.”

The Hoyas (11-5, 1-2 Big East) have a few days to digest the bitter loss before traveling to Rutgers on Wednesday.

An impressive clash between the two teams picked in the preseason to finish 1-2 in the league was expected, and last night’s performance certainly lived up to its billing. Georgetown set a Petersen Events Center-record for field goal shooting and snapped a streak of 68 consecutive games in which Pittsburgh had held its opponents less than 50 percent, much less 60. And for its part, Pittsburgh placed four players in double figures (led by 18 from Mike Cook, a transfer from East Carolina) and became the first team to beat the Hoyas under Thompson III when Georgetown scores 69 or more.

“The numbers are pretty impressive,” Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon said after the opus from his Panthers (16-2, 4-0 Big East). “That was two very good teams playing at a very high level.”

If the expected pivot battle between Pitt All-American Aaron Gray (11 points) and Georgetown center Roy Hibbert (11 points) ended in a somewhat underwhelming draw, the action elsewhere was fast-paced and riveting.

After a lackluster showing in a loss to Villanova, Georgetown power forward Jeff Green looked every bit like a potential league MVP last night, tagging the Panthers for 15 points and seven assists to keep the Hoyas nipping at Pitt’s heels on the scoreboard all game. Fellow junior forward Patrick Ewing Jr. (12 points, two assists) keyed Georgetown’s late surge with the best outing of his debut season with the Hoyas. And junior guard Jessie Sapp (15 points, four assists) spun through the lane in a fury, creating opportunities for both himself and teammates.

But in the final analysis, Georgetown was one hero and a couple of bounces short. Buoyed by their rocking home sellout crowd of 12,508, the Panthers pulled out to a 41-32 lead at halftime and survived Georgetown’s superior second-half performance.

Perhaps the key was a blown rebound attempt from Hibbert with just more than two minutes left and the Hoyas trailing 68-62. Pitt’s Levon Kendall ripped the ball away from Hibbert and gifted the Panthers a fresh clock, which they eventually parlayed into a pair of successful free throws from Cook.

Such was the difference between the two teams last night, as Pitt simply made a couple fewer mistakes (seven turnovers to 10 for the Hoyas), grabbed a few more key rebounds (23-18) and enjoyed a few more fortunate bounces than the Hoyas.

“We did have a couple of bad bounces and lapses that were the difference in the game, but they have a tendency to make those things happen,” said Thompson, whose team had not allowed an opponent to shoot better than 49 percent [Hartford] this season. “Not only are they a really good team, but I think they played really well tonight.”

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