Pitt falls to Georgetown in Big East title game, 65-42
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Matt Freed, Post-Gazette
Pitt head coach Jamie Dixon watches near the end of his team's loss to Georgetown in the Big East Championship last night.
NEW YORK -- Pitt already had made the Big East Conference record books by becoming one of only three teams in the history of the Big East to play in six tournament championship games in a seven-year period. But the history the Panthers made last night in the title game against Georgetown is something they would like to forget.
Georgetown leveled Pitt, 65-42, before a sellout crowd at Madison Square Garden. It was Pitt's fifth championship game loss. The Panthers also lost the title game in 2001, '02, '04 and '06.
This one was by far the ugliest. The 42 points were the fewest points scored in a Big East championship game and were the fewest for a Pitt team since the Panthers scored 30 against Temple on Jan. 15, 1969. The 23-point margin of defeat was the most since Pitt lost to St. John's by 24 in 2000.
"We never showed up," senior forward Levon Kendall said.
Pitt, the preseason favorite to win the league championship, was trying to exact some revenge on Georgetown, the team that had ripped the regular-season title away from the Panthers two weeks ago in Washington with a second-half comeback.
But the revenge tour through the tournament that began so well with victories against Marquette and Louisville ended in heartbreak last night. Georgetown jumped out to a lead in the first half and never trailed after the opening minute.
"It hurts a lot," junior guard Mike Cook said. "It's a championship game and we lost by 20-something."
In a nutshell, the game came down to the matchup between Pitt All-America center Aaron Gray and Georgetown center Roy Hibbert. But it was Hibbert and not Gray who played like the All-American. The 7-foot-2 junior dominated Gray, scoring 18 points and grabbing 11 rebounds.
Gray, meanwhile, had one of the worst games of his career. He was 1 for 13 from the field and scored just three points. He started the game 0 for 10 and didn't make a field goal until 10:56 remained in the game.
Even though he only played 13 minutes Friday night against Louisville, Gray, who refused to speak with reporters afterward, seemed out of sorts from the beginning. In one instance late in the first half, Gray was alone under the basket and instead of dunking tried to drop the ball into the basket. He dropped it on the front of the rim and it bounced to a Georgetown defender for a rebound.
It was reminiscent of Gray's performance at the Big East tournament a year ago, when he was 18 for 51 from the field and missed a ton of easy baskets.
"The shots just didn't fall and he rushed a few of them," Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said. "I just think it was one of those days where things didn't go well. It happens."
The mismatch inside was a surprise because Gray had fared well against Hibbert in games earlier this season and last season. Hibbert only had 11 points and 12 points in the two previous games against Pitt this season. Gray had 11 and 10 on a bad ankle two weeks ago at Georgetown.
But it wasn't just Gray who struggled. His teammates couldn't mount much offense either. The Panthers had a hard time solving Georgetown's suffocating defense. The outside shots that were falling for the Panthers in the first two games against Marquette and Louisville were clanking off the rim last night.
Pitt finished shooting 26 percent. The Panthers made just 16 of 61 shots from the field.
"We missed a lot of layups and open shots we had been making," Cook said.
The Panthers trailed, 32-17, at halftime and they never really mounted a serious threat in the second half. The Hoyas pushed the lead to 21 with 9:32 left after back-to-back 3-pointers from Jonathan Wallace. From there, it was a countdown until the celebration commenced at center court for the Hoyas.
The game was close for the first 13 minutes, but Georgetown closed the half with a 17-4 run over the final 7:25. Cook drew Pitt to within two after a basket with 7:50 remaining, but that was the last basket Pitt had until Sam Young scored with 2:37 to go. In the interim, Georgetown rattled off 13 consecutive points. Hibbert, who had 14 first-half points, had eight of them, including a bucket after grabbing an offensive rebound over Gray with 24 seconds remaining.
Pitt will find out today where it is seeded and which team it will play in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Before the game last night several online projections had Pitt earning a No. 2 seed, but that might have changed after the selection committee watched the game.Matt Freed, Post-Gazette
Sam Young, left, and Georgetown's Jeff Green fight for a rebound in the first half last night in Madison Square Garden. Aaron Gray was 1 for 13 from the floor last night.
Click photo for larger image.
What: NCAA selection show. Pitt will find out who, when and where it is playing in the first round.
When: 6 p.m.
Also: When CBS is done, ESPN will begin two hours worth of analysis of the teams, the brackets and what to expect the next three weeks ( 7 p.m.).
Georgetown's Patrick Ewing Jr. pulls down a rebound in front of Pitt's Aaron Gray in the first half of last night's Big East championship game at Madison Square Garden.
Click photo for larger image.
Matt Freed, Post-Gazette
Pitt's Aaron Gray sits on the bench near the end of his team's loss to Georgetown in the Big East Championship last night.
First Published March 11, 2007 12:00 am