With a tenacious defense that kept the Hoyas constantly changing their offensive patterns and a persistent offense that always seemed to find the open shot, Pittsburgh’s men’s basketball team (11-6, 3-3 Big East) put an end to No. 10 Georgetown’s 16-0 streak Saturday night with a 70-66 win at MCI Center.
The Panthers handed the Hoyas (16-1, 4-1) their first loss at home since Notre Dame defeated Georgetown, 77-54, in last arch.
“They came in with a thought in mind about how they wanted to play against us, and I thought [Pittsburgh Head Coach Ben Howland] and the team executed it perfectly,” Georgetown Head Coach Craig Esherick said.
Though Pittsburgh’s lead never exceeded six points, the Panthers consistently controlled the play on both sides of the court. The Hoyas struggled to find a rhythm offensively, missing shots both from the perimeter and in the paint. Pittsburgh shut down Georgetown, limiting the Hoyas to a 39.7 shooting percentage, one of the team’s lowest of the season.
“I think it was more what they did than what we did,” Esherick said.
The Panthers zone defense effectively stifled the Hoyas, who had averaged 85.6 points a game coming into the contest. Georgetown shot 27 for 68 on the game and looked tentative from the perimeter, but suffered the most down low, where the Hoyas missed putback after putback. Georgetown outrebounded Pittsburgh 42-28, but failed to capitalize on many of their second chances on the offensive glass.
“They controlled the tempo of the game,” Esherick said. “We attempted to speed up play and every time we did, I think Ben settled them down.”
Defensively, the Hoyas were unable to master the Panthers, who shot 28 for 54. Freshman guard Julius Page kept the Hoyas on their toes defensively, going 5 for 7 from the floor, including 3 for 3 from three-point range in the first half. Coming into the second half, the Hoyas tightened their defense on Page, but that move left sophomore forward Donatas Zavackas with the open shot. Zavackas’ trio of three-pointers in the second half gave the Panthers the ultimate edge.
Page led all scorers with 18, hitting 7 of 13 and 4 of 6 threes. Sophomore point guard Brandin Knight kept the Panthers focused on offense, posting nine assists and continually shifting and restarting the offense in response to the Hoyas defensive play.
“They took us out of our rhythm by how patient they were on offense,” Esherick said.
With three minutes left in the game, sophomore forward Victor Samnick made a layup that put the Hoyas up 66-65. But Pittsburgh wrestled control from Georgetown once more when Page hit a jumper giving Pittsburgh a 67-66 lead.
Georgetown could not capitalize on any of its final possessions and a free throw by senior forward Isaac Hawkins and a devastating dunk by senior forward Ricardo Greer gave the Panthers a 70-66 edge and sealed the Hoyas’ fate. A last minute shot by freshman forward Mike Sweetney and two attempted threes by senior forward Lee Scruggs and junior point guard Kevin Braswell proved futile, and the Panthers celebrated their victory over the leading team in the Big East West Division.
Esherick said the loss does not discredit the Hoyas’ accomplishments this season, including Georgetown’s first top 10 ranking since the 1995-1996 season.
“We’ve had a good year and there’s no reason for them not to think now that we have not had a good year because we lost one game,” he said. “Sixteen and one is a pretty good record.”
Sophomore guard Demetrius Hunter led the Hoyas in scoring, posting 11 points and three assists. Scruggs had 10 points and six rebounds, while Braswell added nine points and seven assists.
According to Braswell, the loss was a learning experience for the team.
“We have to learn from it,” he said. “We have to understand that each possession can make you win the game or lose the game.”
The loss drops the Hoyas 4-1 in conference play with two Big East showdowns coming up this week. After playing host to non-conference UNLV at MCI Center on Thursday, Georgetown will square off against Notre Dame on Saturday at MCI Center and No. 11 Syracuse next Monday at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse.
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