By Liz Clarke
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, January 21, 2010; D01
So naturally, when the No. 12 Hoyas traveled to Pitt's home court Wednesday night, the Panthers, who boast the No. 1 defense in the burly Big East, double-teamed Georgetown's sophomore center like crazy.
But in holding Monroe below his season average with 13 points, Pitt failed to account for Georgetown's starting guards -- particularly Chris Wright, who erupted for 27 points en route to Georgetown's 74-66 upset of the ninth-ranked Pitt Panthers.
With the victory, Georgetown (14-3, 5-2) snapped Pitt's 31-game home winning streak and handed the Panthers (15-3, 5-1) their first loss in conference play.
In toppling its first top-10 team of the season, Georgetown made a statement about the essence of its strength this season. It's not Monroe. Nor is it Wright. Nor is it Austin Freeman -- each of whom has notched a career high in the past month. It is the fact that the Hoyas' offense spark can break out among any one of several players and, as a result, shutting down Georgetown on a night like Wednesday can be a daunting task.
It was a thrilling game, with the score knotted at 31 at halftime, 11 lead changes and an electrified capacity crowd of 12,677 at Petersen Events Center -- most clad in gold T-shirts -- that spent most of the time on its feet, hopping up and down, jeering Georgetown players and urging on their own.
Pittsburgh's top scorers entering the game had a miserable time, with Ashton Gibbs and Brad Wanamaker combining to hit just seven of the 28 shots taken between them.
With defense as their calling card, the Panthers dropped the ball when it came to Wright, who rebounded impressively from his six-point performance against Villanova to lead the Hoyas in muscular, sharp-shooting style, hitting 11 of 17 from the floor, including a perfect 3 of 3 from three-point range.
Said Pitt's Jermaine Dixon, who finished with 14 points, of Wright: "He's fast. He's a quick guy. And when someone can shoot the three [-pointer] as well as he can, and drive the basket as well as he can, and finish over 6-10 guys, it's definitely hard to guard somebody like that."
In the first half, Georgetown dazzled on the perimeter, while Pitt dominated inside.
Despite its vaunted defense, Pitt had no answer for the Hoyas' three-point aces -- Wright, Freeman and Clark -- who combined to hit all five of their first five attempts from long range and put Georgetown ahead, 25-17.
But Georgetown had no answer for Pitt's big man, Gary McGhee, nearly as tall as Monroe but seemingly twice as thick. McGhee electrified the crowd with a dunk that tied the score at 27, after Pitt had trailed by eight, and dunked again while Henry Sims looked on flat-footed to knot it at 29.
And it was another dunk -- this one, by reserve Gilbert Brown -- that pulled Pitt even at 31 just before the break.
The lead rocked back and forth in the second half, with the final turning point come with roughly six minutes remaining, the score knotted at 56.
Coming out of a timeout, Georgetown worked the ball around the perimeter crisply until it landed in Wright's hands. His three-pointer was good, and the Hoyas reeled off six in a row, never allowing Pitt back into the game.
The Panthers compounded their troubles by continually feeding Gibbs, who hit just three of his 16 attempts.
With 1 minute 15 seconds to play, Georgetown struck again on an inbounds play. This one took about 1 second to develop, with Freeman firing the ball to Wright, who jumped up for an easy basket.
Coach John Thompson III, clearly pleased with his team's tenacity on the heels of Sunday's loss at Villanova, called it "a terrific win against a terrific team."
Pitt Coach Jamie Dixon acknowledged that Pitt lost to a well-coached team that executed its plays with smarts and efficiency. But his own players' failings -- on offense and defense alike -- decided the matter, he suggested.
""We just missed shots that we normally make, and they made shots," Dixon said. "Defensively we weren't there as a group, I don't know what it was."