Pitt tops Georgetown for Big East Championship

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

Things looked a lot like the last several Big East tournament championship games for Pittsburgh. Except the result.

Ronald Ramon scored 17 points and the Panthers won their second conference tournament championship in their eighth title-game appearance with a 74-65 victory over top-seeded and ninth-ranked Georgetown on Saturday night.

The seventh-seeded Panthers (26-9) shed their runner-up tag with a performance just like those in all the other championship games: a blue-collar effort without a star player.

Roy Hibbert had 17 points for the Hoyas (27-5), who were trying to sweep the regular-season and tournament titles for a second straight season.

Pittsburgh's only title came in 2003 and that was under coach Ben Howland who left for UCLA after that season. Jamie Dixon was promoted to replace him and despite all those title-game appearances and a won-loss record among the best ever for his time as a head coach, the Panthers had never left Madison Square Garden with the trophy under him.

Sam Young, who had 16 points and was selected tournament MVP, led the Panthers' balanced offense that thrived on its own missed shots, grabbing 19 offensive rebounds against the bigger Hoyas.

Freshman DeJuan Blair had 10 points and 10 rebounds as Pittsburgh finished with a 41-29 rebound advantage a stat that allowed it to overcome 22-for-44 shooting from the free throw line. But even there the Panthers came through when they had to.

A 3-pointer by Ramon with 3:45 to go made it 59-49.

Georgetown was able to get within 65-60 on a 3 by Jonathan Wallace with 1:20 to go, but Ramon went 5-for-6 from the line over the final 1:07 to clinch it.

Pittsburgh, which has five players from the New York area, improved to 6-0 at Madison Square Garden this season and the Panthers are 23-8 in the building since the 2000-01 season. A lot of that success came in the Big East tournament.

In recent years Pittsburgh relied on Brandin Knight for solid play at the point, on this team it was Levance Fields, who had 10 points, six assists and just one turnover in 36 minutes. Big men like Aaron Gray, Chevon Troutman and Chris Taft did all the grunt work up front in the past. On this team it was Young and Blair banging the boards even against the likes of the 7-foot-2 Hibbert.

It wasn't anything pretty, but it never is for Pittsburgh. This season was off to a great start with an overtime against Duke at -- where else? -- Madison Square Garden. But senior forward Mike Cook went down with a season-ending knee injury late in that game. Field broke his foot the next game and missed the next 12 games, including a 69-60 victory over Georgetown.

The Panthers used just seven players in the title game, handing the Hoyas their first loss in 15 games in this tournament as its No. 1 seed. Georgetown was looking to add to its record seven tournament titles, the last of which came last season in a blowout of Pittsburgh.

Blair scored all but one of the points in a 9-2 run that gave the Panthers a 55-42 lead with 6:25 to go. The points came just as you would expect: he made one free throw after being fouled grabbing an offensive rebound, he scored on a move down low and he had a three-point play after getting another offensive rebound.

Hibbert started to assert himself down low, scoring five points in a 7-1 run that got the Hoyas within 56-59 but Ramon hit his big 3-pointer with the shot clock running down.

Georgetown, which tied a Big East tournament record with 17 3-pointers in the quarterfinal win over West Virginia, was 8-for-24 from behind the arc on Saturday and committed 14 turnovers.


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