Pitt Is It

Pitt men's basketball coach Jamie Dixon has said that his team is playing their best since Feb. 27, and the Panthers ran their record to 7-1 since then with a 74-65 win against No. 9 Georgetown to capture the Big East Tournament title Saturday night at Madison Square Garden in New York City.

It's the second Big East championship for Pittsburgh (26-9), which has played in seven of the past eight Conference title games. The Panthers only other win was in 2003 under Dixon's mentor, Ben Howland. Pitt also is just the second Big East team to win four straight games for the title. Syracuse accomplished that with a win against Pitt in 2006.

"We love playing in New York,'' Dixon said. "We have New York guys. We'll do anything we can to play in the Garden. We'll change schedules and events around. We want to get our kids back here. ... We'll play in any event that they have. We enjoy playing here. They take very good care of us.

"I guess that helps, too. But you're beating good people. I know the record is pretty. I guess I've had people coming up to us, and there's a lot of talk about the record. I don't know what it is. I know we've beaten very good people playing here, non-conference and conference.

"But again, you've got to have good players and kids that want to compete and play at the best place to play in the world, really,'' Dixon added. "I grew up hearing about it from my dad. And these guys heard about it growing up themselves. So I guess that has something to do with it.''

Senior Ronald Ramon scored 17 points to lead Pitt in the title game, while junior Sam Young -- the Big East Tournament MVP -- added 16 points against Georgetown (27-5). Roy Hibbert topped the Hoyas with 17 points, but the 7-foot-2 center couldn't stop the Panthers from pulling down 19 offensive rebounds and a 41-29 advantage overall on the boards.

"(The Garden), it's one of the greatest places to play at, especially growing up in New York City,'' Ramon said. "You always want to play at the Garden. You always watch the Knicks play, and you always want to come down when Jordan used to play here and watch him play.

"You look at it, and you want to be in that situation. You want to go out there and play. Now that it's presented to us, you want to go out there and compete and do the best to play in front of your family and friends.''

Freshman DeJuan Blair had 10 points and 10 rebounds for Pitt, which won despite shooting a pitiful 22-for-44 from the free-throw line. Still, the Panthers basically dominated Georgetown, which was able to get within 65-60 on a 3-pointer by Jonathan Wallace with 1:20 remaining. However, Ramon went 5-for-6 from the line over the final 1:07 to clinch the win.

Pitt, which has four players who get playing time from the New York area, improved to 6-0 at Madison Square Garden this season. The Panthers are 23-8 in the building since the 2000-01 season with much of that success in the Big East Tournament. Ramon, Fields, senior Keith Benjamin and junior Tyrell Biggs are New York natives.

Fields was a tremendous floor leader with 10 points, six assists and just one turnover in 36 minutes after missing 12 regular-season games due to a broken foot. Pitt was 11-0 before Fields' injury. It's the second win this season against Georgetown, which Pitt beat 69-60 Jan. 14 at the Petersen Events Center.

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 against Pitt.

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 one might expect, with one made free throw after being fouled while grabbing an offensive rebound. Blair 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 66-59 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 Saturday and committed 14 turnovers against Pitt's tenacious defense.

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