NEW YORK – The Hoyas walked in off of two convincing victories that had some sportscasters forecasting a return to the Final Four. The Panthers walked in off of three wins in a row, two against ranked opponents. The two teams met on the court while “Welcome to the Jungle” rocked Madison Square Garden. The Panthers won the tip-off and bragging rights as King of the Jungle in a stunning 74-65 upset of the top-seeded Hoyas Saturday night to win the Big East Tournament Championship.

“They just played like they wanted to win,” junior guard Jessie Sapp said. “They did a lot of hustle plays, and you wouldn’t have known that they played in four days. They just played hard, and congratulations to those guys.”

The title game was a rematch of last year’s contest, where Georgetown came out on top of a 65-42 decision to win their first Big East Tournament Championship since 1989. The game was Pittsburgh’s third consecutive title game appearance, and its seventh time in eight years. The last time they won the Big East tournament was in 2003.

“I think today they caught us playing our best basketball,” Pittsburgh Head Coach Jamie Dixon said. “If you’re looking for a weakness in Georgetown’s game, there isn’t one. They’re very good. They’re very experienced. They’re very well-coached. . They are one of the best programs, one of the best teams in the country.”

The unranked Pitt squad won the game on the boards tonight. Pitt took advantage of a weak Georgetown rebounding presence from the start of the game, dominating the glass and only allowing senior center Roy Hibbert a single rebound in the first half. Rebounding has been a trouble spot for the Hoyas all season, and it spelled the end of their title hopes as the Panthers out-rebounded them 41-29, grabbing 19 offensive rebounds to their seven.

“They hurt us on the boards. It was evident right from the beginning,” Georgetown Head Coach John Thompson III said. “I thought our guys fought and scrapped. But the rebounding was the key.”

Freshman center DeJuan Blair was a large part of Pitt’s presence in the paint. For the majority of the game, Blair simply out-jumped and out-played Hibbert on his way to his 14th double-double of the season with 10 points and 10 rebounds.

Pitt, the tournament’s seventh seed, started the game with back-to-back turnovers and allowed Georgetown to jump out to an early 6-0 lead. But unlike the previous two games, the Hoyas had no strong offensive performance leading them through the first half. Pitt tied it eight minutes into the game, and kept at the Hoyas’ heels through the rest of the first half.

The Hoyas of the first half did not look like the dominant Hoyas of the past two days, making lackluster attempts at rebounds and throwing the ball away on careless looks. At one point, freshman guard Austin Freeman did not even seem aware of the shot clock countdown, forcing a violation and turnover.

Georgetown went into the locker room down 31-28.

In the previous two games, Georgetown was able to neutralize Villanova’s and West Virginia’s main threats, fending off the Wildcats’ Scottie Reynolds and the Mountaineers’ Joe Alexander who was averaging 29.8 points per game in his last five games before meeting the Hoyas. Junior forward Sam Young, who led the Panthers through their first three games of the tournament averaging 21 points, was not fazed by the normally stifling Georgetown defense, scoring 16 points against the Hoyas, one of the nation’s best defensive team.

Things just got worse in the second half for the Hoyas. Sophomore forward DaJuan Summers went on a roll early on, bringing some energy to the team, but picked up his fourth foul seven minutes into the half. Summers sat for five minutes before coming back in only just to pick up his fifth foul at the 7:25 mark. He was out for good with seven minutes of play remaining, while Hibbert had also picked up his third and fourth fouls in a matter of seconds at the 9:17 and 9:14 marks in the half.

Not long after Summers fouled out, Thompson began substituting often, switching in sophomore guard Jeremiah Rivers, freshman guard Chris Wright and sophomore forward Vernon Macklin on the defensive end, while Hibbert, Freeman and Sapp came to lead the offensive effort for the Hoyas in the final minutes.

The strategy worked in part, allowing the team to pick up fouls without losing Hibbert, and making up some lost ground to get the Hoyas within five off a Jonathan Wallace three-pointer with 1:19 left to play.

Georgetown failed to convert on its next possession when senior forward Patrick Ewing Jr. lost the handle on a drive, and the Hoyas missed their chance for the comeback.

Hibbert led the Hoyas with 17 points, while Wallace tacked on 12 of his own.

Pitt senior guard Ronald Ramon led the Panthers on the day with 17 points, seven of which came off of free throws. Ramon was an anomaly, however, as the Panthers shot just 50 percent from the line, hitting only 22-of-44 from the line. Georgetown was unable to capitalize on the Panthers’ Achilles Heel, and in the end the Hoyas could not climb out of the hole they dug for themselves.

“But, you know, we’re not a group that feels sorry for ourselves. So now we’ve got to regroup,” Thompson said. “As I said all year, we have to be better next week than we are this week.”

Entering the match, Georgetown was 14-0 all time in the Big East Tournament when they were the top seed. So Georgetown did make history, however, it was just the wrong kind for Hoya fans.

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