Pitt needs second chances against Georgetown

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It is extremely difficult to win a college basketball game when shooting 3 for 19 from behind the 3-point line. So winning a game by 16 points on the road under those circumstances borders on the impossible.

But that's exactly what Pitt did two seasons ago when it went to Georgetown and won, 70-54. The Panthers were able to overcome their poor outside shooting by crashing the boards and generating second-chance points.

That will be the goal again tonight when fifth-ranked Pitt travels to the Verizon Center to take on No. 22 Georgetown.

The Hoyas have struggled keeping opponents off the offensive glass. In their latest loss, a 65-59 setback to West Virginia, they allowed the Mountaineers to get 15 offensive rebounds.

"It's huge," Pitt's senior Gilbert Brown said. "The biggest part of our offense, aside from us shooting well, has to be our second-chance baskets. Whenever we can get easy buckets it helps us out tremendously because we don't have to run the offense or grind it out as much. Any easy baskets help."


Game: No. 5 Pitt (15-1, 3-0 Big East) vs. No. 22 Georgetown (12-4, 1-3), 7 p.m. today, Verizon Center, Washington.

TV, radio, Internet: ESPN, KDKA-FM (93.7), www.pittsburghpanthers.com.

Pitt: Coming off 89-81 victory against Marquette. ... Junior G Ashton Gibbs (16.4 ppg, 1.8 rpg) tied his season high with five 3-pointers against Marquette. ... Senior F Gilbert Brown (11.6 ppg, 3.3 rpg) is shooting 45.1 percent from 3-point range.

Georgetown: Coming off 65-59 loss to West Virginia. ... Also lost conference games at Notre Dame and St. John's. ... Led by senior G Austin Freeman (17.9 ppg, 2.9 rpg), junior G Jason Clark (13.5 ppg, 4.2 rpg) and senior G Chris Wright (12.5 ppg, 2.4 rpg).

Of note: Georgetown coach John Thompson III has won five of nine meetings against Pitt coach Jamie Dixon.

Pitt is the best offensive rebounding team in NCAA Division I. The Panthers average 16.1 offensive rebounds per game. Reserve center Dante Taylor averages almost three offensive rebounds per game, and starting center Gary McGhee is not that far behind.

In that game two years ago at the Verizon Center, center DeJuan Blair had 20 points and 17 rebounds.

"It's something we do and something we've hurt them with in the past," Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said. "We want to execute offensively, but if we're not making shots, we have to be on the glass."

Georgetown, one of the preseason favorites in the Big East, enters the game wounded. The Hoyas have lost three of their first four conference games. In addition to the home loss to West Virginia, the Hoyas lost at Notre Dame and St. John's. Their lone Big East victory came against cellar dweller DePaul.

The Panthers expect to see a desperate Hoyas team.

"That's one of the biggest things I've been stressing," Brown said. "They'll be hungry and eager for a win. Going down there will make it even tougher to pull it out. We have to be really focused and stick to the game plan when we get down there."

Other than rebounding, Georgetown's biggest problem in recent games has been outside shooting. The Hoyas were 5 for 17 from 3-point range against West Virginia and are shooting just 26 percent from 3-point range in their first four Big East games.

That is a surprising turn of events because the Hoyas were fourth in the league last season with a 38.7 percentage and returned three players from that backcourt.

Georgetown's leading scorer Austin Freeman, who shot 44.4 percent from behind the arc last season, was 2 for 6 against West Virginia and has made just 7 of his first 20 attempts in Big East play. Jason Clark and Chris Wright, the Hoyas' other two starting guards, have struggled even more from 3-point range. Clark is 3 for 14 in conference play and Wright is 2 for 21. All three players were shooting well before conference play began.

All three shot well last season when the Hoyas came to the Petersen Events Center and beat the Panthers, 74-66. Freeman, Clark and Wright combined to go 7 for 7 from 3-point range in that game. Wright led the Hoyas with 27 points.

"They space the floor," Dixon said. "They put shooters on the floor. They don't rely on offensive rebounding. They shoot it to get their points. They recruit skilled guys. They always have four guys on the floor, sometimes five, who can shoot it."

The Hoyas did more than shoot well from the outside against Pitt last season. They operated their Princeton-style offense with precision and were able to create offense from their ability to break down Pitt's guards.

"The Princeton-style offense they run is dull or boring you could say," Brown said. "You think you know what's going on. You have the scout in your head, but you just fall asleep on one quick play they can hurt you."

Ray Fittipaldo: rfittipaldo@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1230.


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