Two of Pitt's staples in its eight-game winning streak were timely defense and stellar play from sophomore guard Ashton Gibbs. Last night against Georgetown, Gibbs could not buy a basket, the defense was uncharacteristically shredded at crucial junctures, and the Hoyas handed the Panthers their first loss at home in almost two years, 74-66, at the Petersen Events Center.
It was Pitt's first loss at home since Louisville beat the Panthers on Feb. 24, 2008. The 31-game home winning streak had been the second longest in the nation.
The streak ended on a night when Georgetown (14-3, 5-2) shot 46 percent from the field and 70 percent from 3-point range. The Hoyas made 7 of their 10 shots from behind the arc.
Georgetown junior Chris Wright scored 27 points, torturing the Panthers from the outside (3 for 3 from 3-point range) and on drives to the basket.
"We haven't defended as well as we need to the last couple of games and it caught up to us tonight because we didn't shoot it well," Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said. "It was the whole game. They hit five 3s to start the game. We didn't defend throughout. Eventually it will catch up to you.
"You have to win games with defense, and I don't think we have with our last couple. We definitely lost this game with our defense."
It did not help matters that Gibbs suffered through one of the worst shooting performances of his short career. Gibbs was 3 for 16 from the field and finished with eight points. He did not score in the second half until the final seconds ticked off the clock, long after the game had been decided.
"I thought we did a pretty good job tonight," Georgetown coach John Thompson III said. "They're so methodical about how they run their offense. I thought our guys did a good job of guarding guys off screens. Our effort and communication was the key."
It was the first time since a Nov. 24 loss to Texas that Gibbs failed to reach double figures. In the past two games he is 7 for 28 from the field.
Dixon said Gibbs is not being defended any differently than he had been in the first four conference games.
"They've been doing that for a while," Dixon said. "He's not a secret. He missed some open shots, but he played pretty well. We just have to do a better job offensively. We got a lot of layups, but we had a lot of possessions where we didn't get the shots we wanted."
Georgetown did a fine job of defending all of Pitt's guards. Brad Wanamaker was 4 for 12 from the field (0 for 3 from 3-point range) and Jermaine Dixon was 4 for 11 from the field (1 for 4 from 3-point range).
"I don't think it was our night," Jermaine Dixon said. "They played good defense. They played a heck of a game. We had open shots. Ashton had open 3s he normally makes. We missed shots we usually make."
Even without much production from the guards, the score was tied 56-56 with 6:58 remaining. The game turned in Georgetown's favor for good when Wright nailed a 3-pointer out of a timeout. On Pitt's next possession, Wanamaker missed the front end of a one-and-one. Wright came down and scored again to make it 61-56 -- the biggest lead of the second half to that point -- and the Panthers could not climb back into the game.
Wright, who scored 15 of his points after halftime, fittingly closed out the game with some clutch shots while the Panthers (15-3, 5-1) missed eight of their final nine over the final three minutes -- before two meaningless baskets in the final 10 seconds.
"We didn't come out and play the way we normally play defense," said junior forward Gilbert Brown, who led the Panthers with 20 points. "We have to get back to that."
The 74 points were the most Pitt has given up in a game in regulation since a Dec. 8 loss to Indiana, 74-64, which not so coincidentally was the last time the Panthers tasted defeat.
"I really thought our defense would continue to improve and we would take a step to becoming a great defensive team," Jamie Dixon said. "I don't feel like we're a great defensive team. We're not there yet."
Pitt has allowed its past three opponents to shoot 46 percent or better from the field.
Ray Fittipaldo can be reached at email@example.com or 412-263-1230. First Published January 21, 2010 5:00 AM