The 11th-ranked Georgetown Hoyas put themselves in position for a great road comeback before missed free throws in the final 28 seconds ultimately allowed Pittsburgh to come away with an 80-76 Big East basketball victory before 16,046 tonight at the Civic Arena.
It was the second straight loss for Georgetown (9-2, 0-1 in the Big East) as the Hoyas again shot poorly from the field (41 percent) and the foul line (62 percent).
Pittsburgh played spectacularly enough to build a 14-point lead, then its players virtually stood around congratulating each other prematurely while Georgetown hurriedly worked back within four points in the final minute.
The Panthers shot 62 percent in the second half and made stunning offensive plays to maintain their lead every time Georgetown tried to mount a run. Pitt shot so accurately from the outside that Georgetown was forced out of its zone press.
Michael Jackson led Georgetown with 19 points, but teammate Reggie Williams missed seven of 11 shots, David Wingate missed eight of 12 and center Ralph Dalton missed eight of 13.
"It wouldn't do me any good and it wouldn't do the kids any good to overanalyze at this time," Georgetown Coach John Thompson said. "The season is very, very long . . . Right now, you feel bad as hell because you lost . . . But we lost with Patrick (Ewing) up here a couple of years ago and we did all right."
Even though the shooting statistics were so lopsided in favor of Pitt (9-2, 1-0), Georgetown's strong effort until the end pleased Thompson and nearly caught Pitt off guard.
Wingate's soaring jam with 34 seconds left pulled Georgetown within 76-72. And the Hoyas' defense forced turnovers. But first, Williams missed the first shot in a one-and-one foul shooting situation with 28 seconds left and Jackson followed by missing two more foul shots with 22 seconds left.
"We played hard and didn't quit," Thompson said. "And as long as these kids play as hard as they could, you can't get on them too much."
The difference was that Georgetown played hard, but Pitt played very well, especially on offense.
Four Panthers scored in double figures, including swing-man Demetrius Gore, who finished with 20 points, and guard Curtis Aiken, who had a career game, with 16 of his 18 points coming in the second half. Charles Smith scored 14 points and had nine rebounds for Pitt.
Pitt broke open a close game by making seven straight shots to claim a 52-40 lead with just less than 14 minutes to play. Every shot was a jumper.
One shot by Gore came following a between-the-legs bounce pass from Aiken, who was throwing in jumpers without a second thought.
Thompson called a pair of timeouts less than two minutes apart but it didn't cool Pitt. Not only did the Panthers extend the lead, but they forced the Hoyas out of their vaunted full-court press.
"Pressure is a rhythmic thing," Thompson said. "One thing pressure does is leave gaps in the floor. And if they're hitting their jumpers, you have to make changes . . . They shot over the top of us and took us out of our zone pressure because we had to give closer coverage."
The Panthers' only problem was stretches of selfish play and too many congratulatory hand slaps with more than three minutes left.
Pitt, apparently, thought it had the game won easily, leading, 65-51, with about seven minutes left.
To show how cocky the Panthers were, Jerome Lane -- who had previously thrown down one of the great dunks in Big East history -- tossed a no-look, behind-the-back pass to Gore for a short basket that made it 74-64.
But Horace Broadnax hit two jumpers for 76-70, and when Lane missed the first shot in a one-and-one, Jackson threw a lob pass to Wingate for the dunk that got the Hoyas as close as they would come.
Georgetown did control the rebounding (47-36), led by Dalton's 10, including six on the offensive boards.
The Hoyas stayed close in the first half by grabbing 12 offensive rebounds, "something we were determined not to allow to happen in the second half," Pitt Coach Roy Chipman said. (Georgetown had seven offensive rebounds after intermission).
Chipman was not about to make too much of this game either. First of all, Pitt has to play Georgetown again, at the Capital Centre. Second, the Panthers are looking at a stretch that includes games at St. John's and Syracuse in the next week.
"It's a long season," Thompson said. "The test of time is the most important thing. We can't get too discouraged over one game, or too encouraged, either."