LANDOVER -- Georgetown had it all figured out. Fall behind Pittsburgh by 17 points early in the second half, charge back on the strength of its big men and send the fans at the Capital Centre home deliriously happy.
The Hoyas followed nearly the same script as in last month's road victory over the Panthers, when they came from 16 down to win. But last night, 25th-ranked Georgetown forgot about one thing: the ending.
Make that two things: the ending and Sean Miller.
After the Hoyas cut their deficit to eight, with two chances to cut it to six, the Pitt point guard tore out the last page, and scribbled in a 78-65 victory for the 22nd-ranked Panthers.
It was the third straight defeat in the conference for Georgetown (15-9, 7-6), the first time that has happened in three years. It also marked the first time that Pitt (19-8, 8-5) has beaten the Hoyas at home since joining the league in 1982.
"It's very satisfying, especially for the seniors," said Pitt coach Paul Evans, whose team had lost its last four games to Georgetown. "It should help, being that we haven't been playing with a lot of confidence. A win here, especially to start a road
trip, is a whole lot better than what could have happened."
For the slumping Hoyas, it wasn't a whole lot worse, or different, than what has transpired recently. The margin of defeat matched Georgetown's biggest of the season, or the week, equaling a 13-point loss to Seton Hall last Saturday night in the Meadowlands.
The Hoyas shot horribly from the field (27 of 73 overall, one of 11 on three-pointers), were out-rebounded (40-37) by the smaller Panthers and were thoroughly frustrated by Miller, who finished with 21 points, 14 in the second half, as well as seven assists.
"He played great today, he made big baskets for them when we were trying to do something," said Georgetown coach John Thompson.
Miller, whose three-point shooting earlier in the second half helped Pittsburgh (19-8, 8-5) build a 51-34 lead, scored on a neat behind-the-back layup with 4 minutes, 17 seconds left to put the Panthers up 10. The Hoyas never got closer than eight the rest of the game.
"That was a big basket for us," said Miller, who missed all of last year with a congenital foot problem. "We've been working on that play with either me or Darelle (Porter) to clear out the side. That puts a lot of pressure on the man guarding us."
Georgetown's freshman guards not only had problems defensively with Miller and Jason Matthews (18 points), but offensively as well. Joey Brown and Charles Harrison shot a combined six of 22 from the field, and Alonzo Mourning (17 points) and Dikembe Mutombo (18 points, 11 rebounds) got involved in the offense too late.
Even an 11-minute delay in the second half to fix the scoreboard -- it certainly wasn't overloaded with points -- did little to help Georgetown. The Hoyas took some shots during the impromptu pause, but they missed most of those too, with no one in their faces.
"I didn't think it was bad shot selection," said Thompson, referring to the shots in the game. "When the shots don't fall, there's a tendency for the kids to tense up."
The defeat did more than just dampen Georgetown's hopes for a late-season run in the Big East. It also put the Hoyas, with only 11 victories over Division I opponents, squarely on the bubble when it comes to the National Collegiate Athletic Association tournament.
But Thompson seemed unperturbed, at least publicly.
"In 19 years, I've participated in my funeral a lot of times," he said. "But we've refused to let people throw dirt on us before, and hopefully we won't let them this time."