Georgetown vs. Pittsburgh: Hoyas fall to 1-4 in Big East with 72-57 loss to No. 5 Panthers

Georgetown's Julian Vaughn (22) and Jerrelle Benimon exit the court after the Hoyas' third consecutive loss. (Photo by John McDonnell/The Washington Post)
Georgetown's Julian Vaughn (22) and Jerrelle Benimon exit the court after the Hoyas' third consecutive loss. (Photo by John McDonnell/The Washington Post)
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Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, January 13, 2011; 12:16 AM

Georgetown's stunning slide toward the bottom of the Big East standings gathered considerable momentum Wednesday night. And judging from the befuddled looks on the 22nd-ranked Hoyas' bench in the waning moments of their 72-57 home loss to No. 5 Pittsburgh, no one is quite sure how to get things turned around.

The defeat was Georgetown's fourth in five games to open conference play and marks its worst start since 1998-99, John Thompson Jr.'s last year as coach. It was also the Hoyas' biggest margin of defeat in a season that, after an 11-1 start, suddenly is in jeopardy of spiraling out of control at 12-5, 1-4.

"It's not an ideal situation," senior point guard Chris Wright said. "It's not a situation any of us envisioned at our beginning. But at this point, you can't do nothing about it. You have to step up and make plays and win games. There's no time for us to be, basically, acting like punks."

The box score was every bit as ugly as the final score might indicate. The Hoyas shot a season-low 38 percent from the field, made only five of their 20 three-point attempts, and after 20 minutes were an abysmal 4 for 14 from the free throw line. Pittsburgh, meantime, had 15 assists to only five turnovers.

"We dug a hole for ourselves in the first half," said Coach John Thompson III, whose team has cracked 60 points only once in conference play after averaging more than 80 in nonconference games. "We missed 10 free throws in the first half. You make those and it's a whole different ballgame. [We] are too good of a team to make that kind of a mistake."

In part because of the missed free throws, the Panthers (15-1) raced to a 41-24 lead at halftime and led by as many as 22 points in the second.

Ashton Gibbs scored a game-high 22 points, including 5 of 10 from beyond the arc, to lead the visitors to a 4-0 start in the conference for the third straight year. The junior guard was also a big reason the Hoyas never challenged late in the second half, despite a 9-1 run that cut the Panthers' lead to 60-49 with 5 minutes 22 seconds left to play.

Jerrelle Benimon's layup ignited the 15,712 and the home team's bench. But on Pittsburgh's next possession, Gibbs coolly sank a three pointer with 4:47 left to play. It was the Panthers' only field goal from outside of the paint in the second half.

"He hit a big one, a really big one," Thompson said.

Gibbs later credited the victory to the Panthers' familiarity with Georgetown's game plan.

"Coach Dixon had us prepared," Gibbs said. "We knew most of their sets."

Thompson bristled when asked if his offense is too predicable.

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