Pitt Basketball: Blair; Panthers roll over Hoyas, 70-54

WASHINGTON -- Pitt started the season with 13 consecutive victories without beating a ranked opponent. And the Panthers knew their lack of a marquee victory raised doubts about their national profile.

So the pregame motivation before the road game at No. 11 Georgetown was to play the disrespect card. The goal was to show everyone that the third-ranked Panthers were worthy of their unbeaten status and lofty ranking.

Mission accomplished, emphatically.

Pitt throttled Georgetown, 70-54, in front of 19,397 fans at the Verizon Center, where the Hoyas had been unbeatable for almost two years. The Panthers bullied Georgetown all over its home court and snapped a 28-game home winning streak. In the process, they handed the Hoyas their worst loss at home since November 2004.

"Before the game, people were saying who did Pitt beat?" Pitt sophomore DeJuan Blair said in the jolly postgame aftermath. "We came into Georgetown and showed what we can do. They can't say anything now."

In a game that defined Pitt's reputation as bullies on the Big East block, Blair played the role of biggest and baddest bully. Three days after the worst game of his career against Rutgers, when he set a career low for rebounds and matched his career low for points, Blair played perhaps the best game.

Blair scored 20 points and ripped down 17 rebounds in a dominating performance against highly touted Georgetown freshman Greg Monroe. The Pitt team statistics measuring physical dominance were even more enlightening.

Pitt won the rebounding battle by more than two to one. The Panthers pulled down 48 rebounds as a team and almost had as many offensive rebounds (20) as the Hoyas did total rebounds (23).

It was a blowout that no one saw coming. Georgetown had just beaten No. 2 Connecticut by nine points on its home court, and this game was being billed as an early showdown for Big East supremacy.

"We talked about making a statement to the rest of the country," Pitt senior Sam Young said. "That's what we did. Considering they were coming off a big win at Connecticut, and we were coming into their house ... For us to have a big win against them, shows a lot for our team."

Young and fellow forward Tyrell Biggs each scored 14 points as Pitt's frontcourt annihilated Georgetown's front line. The Panthers outscored Georgetown, 48-22, in the paint and did what they pleased against the Hoyas, who never figured out a way to counter the Panthers' brute strength.

"They're not a great rebounding team," Young said. "We thought we could come in here and outrebound them by a lot. But we didn't think it was going to be like that."

Pitt controlled the game from the outset and never trailed, but the Panthers did not blow the game open until midway through the second half. Georgetown tied the score at 40-40 after DaJuan Summers, who led the Hoyas with 22 points, made a 3-pointer with 14:11 remaining, but the Panthers scored 26 of the next 33 points to take a 66-47 lead with 3:41 remaining.

"They did what veteran teams do," Georgetown coach John Thompson III said. "They made the right plays. They executed at both ends of the floor. We are a young team that has to go through that growth process. Every stretch is important, and they did a very good job of tightening up and executing. That's a tribute to them. They're experienced, and it showed."

Most of the damage during the decisive stretch was done by the Pitt forwards, except for two baskets by senior point guard Levance Fields. One of them was a tip-in among the trees, a perfect illustration of the way the Panthers, even the smallest one on the court, physically dominated the game.

Pitt headed home as one of five remaining undefeated teams in Division I and will enjoy that status for at least another week. They don't play again until their Big East home opener next Sunday against St. John's.

NOTES -- Gilbert Brown injured his shoulder and had to leave the game, but he said he is fine and will be ready to play when the Panthers return to action against St. John's. ... Fields went over 1,000 points for his career and now has 1,002 points. ... Pitt has won the past three meetings against Georgetown. ... Georgetown's previous loss at the Verizon Center came against Villanova in 2007. ... The Hoyas had won their past 15 home games against Big East opponents.

Ray Fittipaldo can be reached at rfittipaldo@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1230. First Published January 4, 2009 5:00 AM


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