When Georgetown Coach John Thompson took his four seniors off the Capital Centre floor with less than two minutes to play yesterday, the 15th-ranked Hoyas were well on their way to a 93-62 demolition of Pittsburgh. Thompson implored the crowd of 10,742 to stand and salute the seniors for the final time.
"It's very difficult to play for me, as I have said before," Thompson said. "That's why I wanted the crowd to stand up and cheer those four guys who were leaving today."
The crowd responded with a huge ovation for David Wingate, who led Georgetown with a career-high 26 points, Michael Jackson, Horace Broadnax and Ralph Dalton. But one Hoyas player, 6-10 sophomore Grady Mateen, departed for good also, without the benefit of an ovation.
Mateen shocked Thompson and his teammates by quitting, apparently because of a lack of playing time. "I was extremely surprised, just as the team was," Thompson said.
Mateen's playing time decreased lately, as Thompson sought to solve Georgetown's obvious need for a powerful inside player by going more with freshman Johnathan Edwards and sophomore Ronnie Highsmith.
Thompson said on Wednesday that it wasn't that Mateen, a slenderly built player, was playing poorly, but that Georgetown needed power and bulk immediately if the Hoyas are to have any extended success in the upcoming Big East and NCAA tournaments.
"You have a young man, who's in the process of making decisions for himself, and you have to respect the fact that he made the decision," Thompson said. "But I think that the timing was very poor.
"I knew on Thursday. But I waited because you want him to cool out. We talked about it and I told him I respected his decision. I didn't try to talk him out of it. But I did try to wait until yesterday in case something else developed."
Thompson said he didn't ask where Mateen, a pre-med major, would transfer, but added that Mateen would remain on scholarship for the rest of the semester. Mateen, from Akron, Ohio, could not be reached for comment.
But Thompson said this isn't the time to look over his shoulder. "I've got to be more concerned about the people who are still here."
Those people simply obliterated fading, dejected Pitt from the opening minutes. Georgetown, which ended the regular season with a 22-6 overall record, 11-5 in the Big East, took a 9-1 lead and never was threatened.
Panthers Coach Roy Chipman, who is retiring at the end of this season to become an executive of a company that makes cardboard boxes, said his primary thought as Georgetown's lead mounted was: "When is the clock gonna run out so we can get the hell out of here?"
Even worse for Pitt, if that's possible, is that the Panthers (15-12, 6-10) have to play Georgetown in the first round of the Big East tournament, at 3 p.m. Thursday in Madison Square Garden.
That will give the Panthers four full days to figure out how to guard Wingate, who made 11 of 19 shots and four of five free throws and had four steals. "He's just a great one," Chipman said.
Jackson made two foul shots to extend his streak to 31 straight from the line, had seven assists and no turnovers. Broadnax had six points, five assists and four rebounds. And Dalton, the graduate student, finished with two baskets and five rebounds.
Junior Reggie Williams had 18 points, 10 rebounds and five assists.
Even with all the attention focused on the seniors, it was a freshman -- swing man Jaren Jackson -- who provided the most exciting moment.
In Pitt's 76-72 victory over Georgetown to start the league season, Panthers freshman Jerome Lane made every highlight reel in the nation by jumping over Michael Jackson for one of the memorable dunks in league history.
With three minutes left in yesterday's game, Jaren Jackson stole the ball and dribbled three-quarters of the court before taking off from 12 feet out and stuffing the ball in Lane's face. Jaren Jackson even had the presence of mind to turn, while flat on his back, and point to Michael Jackson and say: "That one's for you."
Michael Jackson, gushing in the locker room, said: "That made my season."
By that time, the Panthers were out of it. The closest Pitt got was 20-15 after four consecutive free throws by Keith Armstrong. When Dalton scored an offensive rebound basket for a 22-15 lead with 11:10 to play in the half, Chipman argued when no offensive foul was called, and got himself a technical foul.
Michael Jackson hit two free throws for 24-15, and Williams dunked on the next possession for 26-15. The game, essentially, was over.
Wingate, however, did put on a spectacular performance. He scored nine of Georgetown's final 11 points at the end of the first half, then opened the second half with a dunk.
"We always have problems guarding Wingate," Chipman said. "We've got nobody who can guard him man-to-man."
Pitt, which opened the Big East by winning four of its first seven, finished by losing seven of nine. "This is a team that's obviously on the slide," Chipman said. "All I can do between now and Thursday is try to appeal to their pride a little bit."
Swing man Demetrius Gore scored 21 points for Pitt and forward Charles Smith had 15. But the Panthers shot just 42 percent, committed 20 turnovers and got outrebounded by 14.
The Hoyas weren't about to slip going into the postseason.
"We wanted to go into the Big East with a positive attitude, it was the last home game, and having lost to Pitt earlier this year; it all just made for one big push," Broadnax said.
"Four years of playing for John Thompson isn't easy," Broadnax added. "You know you've gone through a lot of tough times, and it feels just great for the people to recognize what you have done.
"Georgetown teams get booed a lot, and the ovation today meant a whole lot," Michael Jackson said. "To all of us."