As the solemn, irritated players from Pittsburgh, their overcoats thrown on top of their uniforms, made a hasty exit down the freight elevator in Madison Square Garden, would-be hero Demetreus Gore said he would entertain "no questions." But there were plenty of questions and not many answers surrounding Georgetown's controversial 57-56 Big East tournament victory over Pitt today.
Pitt had three chances to upset the 14th-ranked Hoyas in the final 15 seconds of this tournament quarterfinal. Two of them came after Georgetown's David Wingate missed a one-and-one foul-shooting opportunity with eight seconds remaining that could have iced the game for the Hoyas.
But Gore, at the end of an improbable 360-degree spin, back-to-the-basket shot, had the ball blocked by several Hoyas hands. And after Wingate missed his foul shot, Pitt guard Curtis Aiken was in the process of missing a 30-footer with four seconds left when a roll of toilet paper came flying out of the Pitt student section onto the court.
Whether Aiken's concentration was disrupted was not discussed, because none of the Panthers were allowed to talk after the game. But the officials put two seconds back on the clock.
After Pitt Coach Roy Chipman held his hands over his eyes for several moments, the Panthers threw the ball in bounds to Gore. The shot he attempted with no time left on the clock barely got out of his hands. But the television replays showed that Gore was hacked by Georgetown's Ronnie Highsmith. No foul was called.
Chipman said that he thought Gore was fouled but that he didn't want to sound like "sour grapes."
Georgetown center Ralph Dalton, one of the Hoyas near Gore, said he wasn't as concerned with hearing a foul whistled as he was "with letting Gore get that shot off."
And what did Chipman think about the handling of the toilet paper incident? "There sure as hell were more than two seconds left when the toilet paper flew," he said.
Referee Dick Paparo said in a statement that the officials had "definite knowledge" that :02 was showing on the clock when the toilet paper hit. Paparo held Chipman's waist as he tried to explain the situation to him.
So while Pitt (15-13) went away mad, Georgetown, the defending tournament champion, joined Syracuse, St. John's and Villanova in the semifinals for the third consecutive year. The Hoyas will meet the Orangemen Friday at 7 p.m.
In tonight's doubleheader, top-seeded St. John's (28-4) got a tournament-record 13 assists from Mark Jackson in an 87-68 victory over eighth-seeded Seton Hall.
In Friday night's second game, the fifth-ranked Redmen will play Villanova (22-12), which had 26 points, 14 rebounds and six steals from senior forward Harold Pressley in the Wildcats' 75-63 victory over fifth-seeded Providence.
Syracuse advanced with a 102-79 victory over Boston College, in which the Orangemen set a single-game tournament record for the number of points scored by one team.
But Georgetown Coach John Thompson hadn't yet turned his attention to the second-seeded Orangemen.
Perhaps he was contemplating the fact that his Hoyas (23-6) scored only 19 points in the second half. Or that after shooting 56 percent, Georgetown shot just 31 percent thereafter. Or that senior guard Horace Broadnax may have to sit on the bench Friday, as he did today, with a soft cast protecting a strained back that occurred in practice late Wednesday, then took on more painful proportions this morning.
Thompson even humorously contemplated the roll of toilet paper. "That looked like Pitt toilet paper to me," Thompson quipped.
One thing Thompson will no longer contemplate -- unless he was only joking or purposely misleading today -- is trying to work the ball inside.
Georgetown ran up an eight-point lead, 48-40, with 15:20 to play on the exceptional jump shooting of Reggie Williams (game-high 16 points) and Wingate (13 points). But the Hoyas hit a cold spell, then nearly quit shooting.
The Hoyas scored only nine points the rest of the game. Williams, Wingate and Michael Jackson, after a few misses, kept looking to get the ball inside. And all that resulted, for the most part, were turnovers and missed opportunities.
"We're giving up on that," Thompson said. "To hell with it, let it fly. Hell, I'm a coach not a magician. Let's put it up. We're going with those missiles. We'll live or die with the jump shots."
Thompson fussed at his players afterward -- particularly Williams, Wingate and Jackson -- for not attempting the outside shots they usually take.
"We started second-guessing ourselves," Wingate said. "We should have kept shooting."
Jackson, after looking at the stat sheet line that showed he had made two of 10 field goal attempts, said, "Twenty percent? That's not me; it better not be me."
But Georgetown's inside problems weren't just offensive. Pitt got 14 offensive rebounds and outrebounded the Hoyas overall, 37-31. That's just one reason why the fired-up Panthers nearly atoned for a 31-point loss at Georgetown only five days ago.
Ironically, Georgetown's biggest play of the game -- the one that provided the winning points -- came on an inside move by 6-foot-11 senior center Ralph Dalton.
A three-point play by Georgetown sophomore Perry McDonald, who started in place of Broadnax, had given the Hoyas a 55-53 lead with 2:19 to play.
Pitt's Joey David made one of two free throws with 1:51 left to get the Panthers within 55-54. That's when Dalton made a nice little move on the right baseline and put in a left-handed layup for a 57-54 Georgetown lead.
Jerome Lane made two free throws for Pitt with 1:07 left to make it a one-point game again. And Pitt found itself in good position to win the game when Wingate's pass inside to Dalton was stolen by Lane, who dribbled across halfcourt and called Pitt's final timeout with 29 seconds left.
Chipman said the first shot by Gore, before Wingate's missed free throw, was designed for the 6-foot-5 Gore to spin into the lane and get a shot, and in case of a miss, draw the foul.
But the Hoyas were on to Gore, and it seemed as if three Georgetown players blocked the shot. "I think we all did, but it really doesn't matter," Dalton said.
While the toilet paper was being removed from the floor, with two seconds left, the Hoyas had a lot to think about.
"I didn't know if they were going to put more time on the clock -- plus we had to figure out who was going to try to take the shot for Pitt and where it was going to come from," Wingate said.
Those questions were almost as difficult to answer as trying to figure out which Pitt team was going to show up today -- the one that beat the Hoyas by four in January or the one that lost, 93-62, at Capital Centre last week. Michael Jackson accurately called Pitt a Jekyll-Hyde team.
Pitt's A Team showed up for most of the game today. Aiken led the Panthers with 12 points. Center Charles Smith scored 11, as did reserve center/forward Keith Armstrong before fouling out.
"I've always said that Pitt, although it's a very young team, is capable of giving you a tough game on any given night," Thompson said. "They were fired up and ready to play today.