The matchup: No. 13 ranked and fifth-seeded Georgetown (22-7) vs. No. 13 seed Pittsburgh (17-15) square off in the second round of the Big East Tournament, 2:00 p.m. on Wednesday at Madison Square Garden. The Hoyas received an opening round bye while the Panthers advanced with a 73-59 win over St. John’s on Tuesday.
The series: The Panthers have won five of six, including a 72-60 triumph on Jan. 28, which snapped the then No. 9 Hoyas three-game winning streak. Under coach John Thompson III, Georgetown captured the 2007 Big East Tournament with a resounding 65-42 win over Pittsburgh in the championship game.
The players: Hoyas guard Jason Clark rightfully earned his spot on the all-Big East first team, leading the team in scoring (14.3) and spearheading their nasty perimeter defense. Last season Clark scored 23 points in Georgetown’s Big East Tournament loss to Connecticut. Fellow senior Henry Sims (11.1 ppg) rise from underperforming reserve to quality starter earned the 6-foot-10 center a third-team selection.
Ashton Gibbs leads the Panthers in scoring (15.4), though the off-guard has struggled with his outside touch much of his senior campaign. However, Gibbs nailed four from the beyond the arc in the win over the Red Storm and finished with 20 points. Undersized power forward Nasir Robinson (11.0) shoots a robust 56.2 percent from the field.
The stats: The two sides finished in the middle of the Big East scoring pack, but the Hoyas made their mark on the defensive end. Georgetown ranks second in the conference in points allowed (59.0) and fourth nationally in 3-point field goal defense (27.8 percent). The Panthers ranked 15th in field goal percentage defense (44.6), but topped the conference in rebounding margin (+7.7), two spots ahead of the long-armed Hoyas (+5.6)
The recap: During his media session on Monday before the team headed to the tournament site in New York City, John Thompson III could not recall the exact number of dunks and layups the Panthers foisted on the Hoyas in the earlier matchup. Maybe 15 to 20, JTIII guessed. The box score shows 32 points in the paint for the Panthers – seemed like more.
The exact numbers only tell part of the Hoyas defensive tale of oh no that day.
Seemingly every interior basket was of the uncontested variety as the Panthers feasted on open shots around the rim setup by precise offensive execution. With the rugged Robinson perfect on nine attempts, Pittsburgh shot 52.1 percent from the field, at the time the best effort against Georgetown on the season.
Robinson finished with 23 points. Heady point guard Travon Woodall directed traffic and finished with 10 assists.
"We have to protect the rim and the paint a lot better," the Hoyas coach said. "We must have communication on all those screens and curls that they scored on the first time."
While the Panthers offense flourished, the Hoyas scorers went silent in the first half. Georgetown scored one point during a seven-minute stretch and Pittsburgh pulled away with a 15-1 run for a commanding 29-12 lead.
Otto Porter led the Hoyas with 14 points.
Bombs away: Hoyas forward Hollis Thompson (45.8 3ptFG) and Panthers swingman Lamar Patterson (41.6) rank as the conference’s most accurate shooters from beyond the arc. Both players went 1-of-3 from distance in the first meeting, but Patterson made all five of his 2-point attempts and finished with 18 points.
Thompson is known as a streaky scorer, but he took it to extremes in the loss. After making one basket over the opening 39 minutes, the junior sharpshooter scored the Hoyas final four field goals. Against Marquette in the regular season finale, Thompson made 3-of-5 from long range after being shutout from distance in the previous two games. The perimeter forward also showed a diversified offensive arsenal in the season finale against Marquette, repeatedly slashing and cutting to the basket for opportunities, a tact he rarely attempted earlier in the season.
Random: During his first three seasons with the Hoyas, Sims scored a combined five points in Big East Tournament action. This campaign, his season-low was five points, against Marquette on Saturday.