PITTSBURGH, FEB. 20 -- Georgetown and Pittsburgh were four seconds away from finishing a clean, hard-fought basketball game today. But chaos took control on the court and a bench-clearing fight ended the contest with the Panthers ahead, 70-65.
This game, which neither team led by more than six points throughout, will probably be remembered only for the melee that ended it. Before that, the Hoyas (17-7, 7-6 in the Big East) had outrebounded the Panthers 36-21, but Pittsburgh pounded the ball inside to its imposing duo of Jerome Lane and Charles Smith late in the game to take control.
Mark Tillmon led the Hoyas with 21 points, and Pittsburgh's Smith had a game-high 25 points for the Panthers (19-3, 9-2 and first in the Big East).
The incident occurred with Sam Jefferson on the line with four seconds to play. Jefferson missed the first free throw, and was called for a lane violation on the second, which he missed intentionally.
Lane (15 points, seven rebounds) was underneath the basket, on the left side. Georgetown's Perry McDonald was opposite him. Lane told CBS-TV afterward that McDonald elbowed him in the back of the head as the two jockeyed for position on the second free throw. Television replays seemed to support Lane's assessment.
Three separate altercations then took place. McDonald and Lane squared off left of the basket, Lane throwing the first punch. They parted, as Lane backed up toward midcourt.
Meanwhile, Jefferson somehow wound up on the floor on the right side, near midcourt, with Pittsburgh's Demetreus Gore. Gore wound up on top of Jefferson, and bloodied Jefferson's face with an elbow.
Then, Pittsburgh's Smith exchanged punches briefly with Georgetown's Johnathan Edwards. But McDonald and Lane found each other, and continued wrestling, winding up by crashing into press row and taking out the table of the Pittsburgh Press.
Both benches had long since cleared, as police and spectators came onto the court. The game officials, wisely, sent both teams to their respective locker rooms.
It was the second time this season the two teams have fought.At the Capital Centre in their first meeting Jan. 6, Lane and Tillmon fought early in the first half and Tillmon was thrown out.
The Georgetown locker room was closed yesterday following the game.
"Really, I was disappointed that it happened," Georgetown Coach John Thompson said. "I thought the game was played very well. It was a good, competitive ballgame."
"Tempers flared," said Pittsburgh's Smith. "It was no big deal. I don't think the fight was the major high point of the game."
What will be forgotten is the effort both teams displayed. The Hoyas were going against a club that had averaged 83.5 points over its last eight games, and which averaged an eight-rebound edge over opponents this season.
But today, Georgetown wound up with a 15-rebound edge, keeping Lane five rebounds under his average (12.5, third in the nation coming in, and just the fourth time this season he's been held under double digits rebounding).
And Pittsburgh's backcourt of freshmen Sean Miller and Jason Matthews did a good job against Georgetown's defensive pressure. The Panthers only turned the ball over 13 times today. To their credit, the Panthers knew where to go when the game was on the line.
"Our composure was much better the last 15 minutes," Pittsburgh Coach Paul Evans said. "We executed a lot better. We were more conscious of what we were going to do, and less worried about what they were doing."
Pittsburgh broke a 55-55 tie by going almost exclusively to Smith and Lane, who was defended well by Georgetown's Bobby Winston. Pittsburgh's Smith hit two free throws with 3:15 to play to put the Panthers up, 57-55.
Georgetown's own Charles Smith (17 points) nailed a 14-footer to tie, but Lane scored in the paint with 2:32 to play to give Pittsburgh the lead back. Edwards put in a McDonald miss at the 2:02 mark to tie the game once again, but Gore untied the game with 1:44 left.
Georgetown's Smith, grabbing an offensive rebound on the next trip, had a chance to tie the game after he was fouled by Pittsburgh's Smith. But he hit just one of two free throws, keeping the Panthers up, 61-60, with 1:29 to play.
Pittsburgh kept pounding the ball inside. Their Smith, who made his living at the foul line today (15 of 17), hit two more after Ben Gillery fouled him, putting Pittsburgh up by three. Tillmon missed a three-point shot, and Lane hit one of two from the line with 1:11 to play.
After the Hoyas' Smith missed a three-pointer, the Panthers' Smith buried two more foul shots with 56 seconds left. Georgetown got within four on a basket by its Smith. Forced again to foul, the Hoyas picked Lane, who was hitting just 61 percent from the line before today's game. But he made two more for a 68-62 lead.
Tillmon kept Georgetown alive with a three-point bomb at the 24-second mark. Jefferson then nearly came up with a steal, but the ball bounced off his hands out of bounds.
The Panthers' Smith was fouled by Jefferson with 15 seconds left and made both for a 70-65 Pittsburgh lead. Jefferson then was fouled after grabbing an offensive rebound, and the fight followed.
"Our kids don't hate Georgetown," Evans said, "and I don't think their kids hate us. The defense was so intense throughout the game. It was a must win for us because we wanted to keep our standing, and it was a must win for them."