- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 3, 2009

If the past two seasons are any indication, this game will mean something come March.

Georgetown and Pittsburgh have dominated the Big East the past two-plus seasons. The Hoyas have won the past two regular-season titles; the Hoyas and Panthers have split the past two league tournament titles, facing each other in both finales at Madison Square Garden.

The 11th-ranked Hoyas (10-1, 1-0) and No. 3 Panthers (13-0, 1-0) meet Saturday at Verizon Center with the early lead in the nation’s top conference on the line.

“Playing Pittsburgh is a beautiful thing,” Georgetown senior guard Jessie Sapp said. “You always know when you play them, it’s going to be a war. I think there’s still a bitter taste in our mouths left over from last season’s Big East Tournament final, [which the Hoyas lost 74-65]. They played so hard in that game, and I don’t think we matched their intensity in that game. Everybody’s ready to make sure that doesn’t happen again.”

One of the game’s more intriguing matchups pits Sapp against senior point guard Levance Fields, who leads the Big East and ranks third nationally in assist-to-turnover ratio (4.4). The two first met on the court seven years ago when both tried out for New York’s famed AAU program, the New York Gauchos.

“The way we met was going against each other in that tryout,” Sapp said. “I’ve never beat him at Pittsburgh, and he’s never beat me here. I told him that’s not changing.”

Dating to March 2007, the Hoyas have a Big East-best record of 46-8. Pittsburgh is the only team responsible for more than one of those losses. And the Panthers’ formula was the same in both victories: Pittsburgh dominated on the boards behind 6-foot-7 forward DeJuan Blair (13.7 points, 12.1 rebounds) and averaged 18 offensive rebounds and countless second-chance points courtesy of Blair and Clinton native Sam Young (19.9 points).

The Hoyas just emerged victorious from a seemingly similar lopsided frontcourt matchup, beating No. 2 Connecticut 74-63 in Hartford despite the Huskies’ imposing pivot tandem of Hasheem Thabeet and Jeff Adrien.

“Connecticut wasn’t as physical as Pittsburgh’s going to be, but we’re prepared for that,” sophomore point guard Chris Wright said. “We know that last year Pittsburgh tried to outmuscle us. … It’s no secret that [rebounding] is our weakness. They’re strong, that’s how they play, and they pride themselves on playing like that.

“But we’re going to be ready.”

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