Charles Nailen/The Hoya Pittsburgh pulled away in the second half in a rematch that failed to provide the drama of the previous meeting.

There were glimmers of hope, as there have been all season long, but, after a tied score at halftime, Pittsburgh eventually pulled away to hand Georgetown its worst loss of the season, 82-67 Tuesday at MCI Center.

While the Hoyas came out with a flurry in the first half, opening a seven-point lead just six minutes into the game, Georgetown couldn’t match its early intensity in the second frame. The three-point shooting of Pittsburgh’s Donatas Zavackas and Brandin Knight opened up a five-point lead that the Panthers would not relinquish down the stretch.

“I thought that span where Pittsburgh scored five straight points really hurt us,” Georgetown Head Coach Craig Esherick said. “This is the first game in probably the last 10 where I thought the first-half energy was there but in the second half we did some things that I wasn’t too happy with.”

One of the largest distinctions between the first and second halves was the drop-off in perimeter scoring for the Hoyas. Coming off a career-high 31 points against Virginia Tech, Gerald Riley scored seven in the first half while Tony Bethel drained three three-pointers to diversify Georgetown’s offensive potential in the early going. But in the second half, the two combined for just five points, shooting just one of 10 while Riley was held scoreless from the field. Junior forward Mike Sweetney scored 28 for his third straight game with 20-plus points, but more significantly, until three minutes left in the game, Sweetney accounted for 16 of the Hoyas’ second half points, while the rest of the team combined for just nine.

“They started to edge out on us because Gerald and I were hitting our shots,” Bethel said. But I don’t think that affected it too much.”

Meanwhile, the Panthers pulled away thanks to an 8-2 run midway through the second half keyed by Pittsburgh senior guard Brandin Knight.

After the Hoyas opened the half with a Sweetney air ball, Pittsburgh guard Julius Page hit a three-pointer and then Jaron Brown made a jumper and Knight converted a fast break layup to push the score to 40-33 before the Hoyas could answer.

Georgetown answered with a nine-point run of its own, taking the lead back on a Sweetney layup with 12:37 to go, but Pittsburgh answered with a three-pointer from a wide-open Donatas Zavackas. The Panthers would extend the lead to five before Hoya freshman Brandon Bowman cut the lead to two on a double-clutch layup under the boards at 9:17, but the Hoyas would draw no closer for the remainder of the game.

Knight, who had been mired in an awful shooting slump, averaging just 9.7 points per game and shooting a woeful 26.6 percent from three-point range, scored a season-high 23 points, including nine from behind the arc. The victory snapped a three-road-game losing streak for the Panthers.

As time wound down in the second half, Pittsburgh put the game out of reach with foul shots, including two by Knight, who hit all six of his attempts on the night despite shooting just 44.6 percent from the line coming into the game. As a team Pittsburgh shot 82.8 percent from the stripe, over 20 percentage points higher than their season average of 62.5.

“It seems that whatever team we play that supposedly can’t shoot free throws, shoots very well against us,” Esherick said. “We’re going to have to work on our foul shot defense in practice.”

More stinging than the deceptive final margin, the loss leaves the Hoyas in last place in the Big East West and outside of the Big East Tournament field.

The game, which had been originally scheduled for Monday, was postponed due to the weekend snowstorm. Pittsburgh, who arrived before the snowfall, didn’t appear too weary from its extra night in the District, or having an episode where the players had to push the team bus out of a snowdrift Monday.

“We actually became closer on this trip,” Knight said. “We weren’t stressed out or tense. We sat and watched movies together, and I really think this snowstorm helped this team out tremendously.”

The Hoyas might be searching for some similar bonding techniques as they continue their fight for a postseason Big East berth Saturday in Miami.

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