Obviously I did not see that coming. I’m pretty sure no one did. Not like that.
The Panthers came up with a victory they desperately needed Tuesday night when the knocked off No. 19 Georgetown, 73-45, at the Verizon Center. The win came on the heels of two losses to Cincinnati and Rutgers to open Big East play.
Pitt (13-3, 1-2) beat Georgetown for the 12th time in the past 18 meetings. The Panthers won seven of their final nine games against the Hoyas at the Verizon Center. This was the final scheduled game in the series because Pitt is moving to the ACC next season.
The 28-point margin of victory was the second-largest for Pitt in a Big East game. The largest was a 30-point victory at DePaul in 2011.
“We were clicking today,” Pitt senior Tray Woodall said. “We came out and fought hard.”
It was the most-lopsided home loss for Georgetown since a 40-point loss to St. John’s in the 1971-72 season.
“It’s embarrassing,” Georgetown coach John Thompson III said. “It was very disappointing. I know this isn’t who we are, but tonight was very disappointing.”
It was Pitt’s most complete game this year. They played hard in both halfs. They played defense. They took care of the ball. They worked it around on offense.
When trying to think where to begin, it seems the end of the first half would be a good place.
Pitt was finishing the half strong. They weren’t having a last minute let down on defense just because they were up by double digits. They even pushed it to a 15 point lead when Georgetown had the final possession. The Panthers wanted to deny Georgetown anything.
That was just what Pitt did. Steven Adams stuffed Jabril Trawik on a drive, and then Tray Woodall out-hustled, and out-toughed him corralling the rebound. Trawik was all over Woodall, but Woodall still saw and got the ball out and the ball reached Cam Wright nearly alone going to the basket as the clocked neared zero. We saw a Hoya player holding onto Wright’s off-arm to slow him down. No call, and the shot didn’t get off before time expired.
Then we look back to see Woodall lying on the ground. Replays showed how Trawik, after Woodall got rid of the ball, raised his elbow high and then swung it at Woodall’s face as he “turned” to go upcourt. It caught Woodall in the throat/neck.
The Karl Hess-led officiating crew that had called everything in the first half missed both calls. Worse, they spent five minutes reviewing the clear flagrant 1 foul, decided that it was a “basketball play.” Somehow, it was just an accident.
That may have been the best thing for this Pitt team.
They were back in the locker room by the time the word was finally given that there would be no foul shots. Pitt was called for ten fouls in a very tightly called half (to Georgetown’s seven). The senior leader was leveled by an elbow. Wright was clearly being dragged by his off-hand heading to the basket. Yet the officials saw nothing. Twice. If Pitt wanted this game, they had to make sure that no one else would decide it.
You saw it in their faces when they came out after the half, and the camera showed the players shooting around before the buzzer to start the second half with a fifteen point lead. Woodall had a stone look on his face. The rest of the team was business. No joking. No relaxing.
And they dismantled Georgetown in the second half. Woodall didn’t try to take it at the Georgetown team alone. No one did. As a team, they just broke Georgetown.
“It feels great,” said Pitt senior point guard Tray Woodall, who finished with 11 points, seven assists and four rebounds in 32 minutes. “It‘s our last time here against them. I‘m glad we did it the way we did.”
It was the first conference victory for Pitt (13-3, 1-2), which had lost back-to-back Big East games to Cincinnati and Rutgers, and the 28-point margin represented the Panthers‘ most lopsided victory in 55 Big East games against the Hoyas (10-3, 0-2). It was Georgetown‘s largest margin of defeat since a 104-71 loss to Maryland on Dec. 10, 1974, its worst home defeat since a 107-67 loss to St. John‘s on Dec. 7, 1971 and ranks as the third-largest margin of defeat in any home game in Georgetown history.
“I‘m very proud of our guys and how they responded to a disappointing start for us,” said Pitt coach Jamie Dixon, whose Panthers spent the weekend here after the Rutgers game. “I know how good of a team Georgetown is, so it means more. … They‘re one of the best programs in the country. We‘ve had a great rivalry, a great tradition. They‘re a great program with a great coach and great players.”
Made the Hoyas look slow, sloppy, desperate. Tentative to shoot. And it all started on the defense. They made the plays there, they had more opportunities on offense.
The difference for the Panthers, according to Woodall, came on the defensive end of the floor, where they “wanted to come out and be the aggressor.” Cut down open looks on the perimeter, pressure ball-handlers in the half court and attack the defensive glass. Pitt did just that, as Georgetown — an admittedly awful offensive team right now — never got into anything close to a rhythm on that end of the floor.
“I think our guys are recognizing what we’ve been trying to get across to them defensively,” Dixon said.
But the key to the game had much more to do with Georgetown’s defense than Pitt’s, as the Panthers absolutely shredded what had been one of the stingiest groups in the country coming into the game. Pitt was able to get penetration from Woodall and James Robinson, they knocked down their open threes and they got to the offensive glass. While their total number of points may not be all that impressive, it is when you consider that they put up 73 points in 59 possessions — or 1.237 PPP — against a team that, even with Tuesday’s hideous performance factored in, is allowing just 0.871 PPP on the season.
Pitt thoroughly humiliated a good Georgetown team on the road in a game that they really needed to win.
That’s what good teams do. And that’s how good teams handle adversity.
“I’m proud of our guys,” Dixon said, “and how we responded to a disappointing start.”
Before the game, the talk was how Pitt was desperate but Georgetown was tough. That Pitt would struggle to get it inside with the Hoya’s overall length. Instead it was Georgetown that couldn’t get the ball inside. It was the Hoyas that were stagnant on offense and let that frustration lead to playing bad defense.