PITTSBURGH, JAN. 27 -- Georgetown sneaked away with the kind of emotional victory at Civic Arena today that can go a long way toward turning a young team into a veteran club and a difficult season into a promising one.

The No. 21 Hoyas trailed 17th-ranked Pittsburgh by 16 points early on, by seven at halftime and by 11 with fewer than 13 minutes to play. Yet they regrouped and bested the Big East Conference's most feared team at its own forte -- free throw shooting -- to emerge with a tough and gratifying 83-78 triumph before 16,683.

"This game really meant a lot," said Georgetown forward Alonzo Mourning, who had 18 points and seven rebounds in his best performance since returning from a six-week absence with a strained arch in his left foot.

"Any time you win on the road in the Big East, it means a lot, but we had a lot of extra things to overcome today."

Indeed, the Hoyas' troubles once seemed plentiful. They scored two points in the first 5:36 and trailed by 24-8 with 9:15 left in the half. They were watching their twin towers -- Mourning and Dikembe Mutombo -- get in each other's way, and they had to resort to using a half-court trapping defense that had been gathering dust lately in Coach John Thompson's repertoire.

Georgetown never has had a losing record in Big East play at any point during a season, but the Hoyas (12-5, 4-3 in the Big East) were on the verge.

"We had them," Panthers forward Darelle Porter said. "We had everything under control. We just couldn't finish them."

Pittsburgh's collapse was gradual and tormenting. Mourning kept the Hoyas in contention with 12 first-half points, and they narrowed the deficit to five late in the first half. The Panthers (15-5, 4-3) threatened to pull away again after the intermission, but Mutombo took over in the second half and Georgetown -- which beat Pittsburgh for a fourth straight time -- grabbed control in the final five minutes.

"We had some things go our way at the right times," Thompson said. "You hope this is something you can build on, but you never know because Pittsburgh could just as easily have won this game. . . . We definitely needed a positive experience."

Forward Brian Shorter made seven of 10 field goal attempts and 10 of 12 free throws for a game-high 24 points, but the Panthers' offense fell into disarray after he fouled out with 6:20 to go.

Guard Jason Matthews scored 15 for Pittsburgh despite three-for-14 shooting, and Porter had 14.

Pittsburgh, which started the game as the nation's seventh-best free throw-shooting team, missed 14 of its 45 attempts (there were 61 fouls called). Georgetown, meanwhile, made 33 of 38 free throws, including a 15-for-17 showing by Mutombo and 10 for 11 by Mourning.

Mutombo finished with 23 points -- 21 in the second half -- and nine rebounds. Guard Charles Harrison scored 16 and his backcourt mate, Joey Brown, had 10.

The Hoyas shot 45 percent, the Panthers 39 percent -- after making only seven of 26 in the second half.

"We just had players trying to do things they shouldn't be trying to do," Pittsburgh Coach Paul Evans said. "With {injured center Bobby} Martin out and Shorter out, there weren't enough places left to turn."

Georgetown's first lead came at 72-71 on Robert Churchwell's followup layup with 4:10 left. Mourning's two foul shots and Mutombo's alley-oop dunk completed a 10-1 surge and gave Georgetown a 76-71 advantage at the 2:50 mark, and the cushion was 80-74 with 40 seconds remaining.

But the Panthers made one final push, as reserve guard Gandhi Jordan connected on a three-pointer while being fouled by Churchwell. He completed the four-point play to make it 80-78, and Pittsburgh regained possession with the deficit at 81-78 after Brown made one of two free throws.

But the Panthers squandered most of the 27 seconds with which they had to work, and Jordan missed a 28-foot three-point try with three seconds to go. Mutombo completed the scoring with two free throws.

"We're shooting free throws unbelievably, knock on wood," Thompson said. "All we need is for our perimeter shooting to catch up to our free throws."

Pittsburgh was left to contemplate a defeat in which it shot 50 percent in the first half en route to its 16-point cushion, and still seemed in control when Darren Morningstar's two free throws gave the Panthers a 61-50 lead with 12:53 to play.

Said Porter: "This was one of those games where you look back at the end of the year and you say, 'How did we lose that one?' This was definitely a bothersome loss."