Capitol Showdown

Sure, the Pitt men's basketball team has a natural one in West Virginia, intra-city one in Duquesne and even Big East one in Connecticut, but one would be hard-pressed to find a rival who has played the Panthers tougher and with more on the line than Georgetown.

Pitt and the Hoyas have split the past six series games, including the past two Big East Tournament title games. Georgetown won in 2007, and the Panthers roared to the tourney title in 2008 with four straight wins in New York City. That included a 74-65 win against the Hoyas. The teams played once during the regular season, and Pitt won 69-60 at the Petersen Events Center.

This is the 72nd meeting between the Hoyas and Pitt, with Georgetown leading the series 39-32. The Hoyas have gone 22-11 in games played at home against the Panthers and have a 28-game winning streak there overall. The series has been closely contested since the teams first met during the 1936-37 season, as 33 games were decided by 10 points or less.

No. 3 Pittsburgh (13-0) takes on the No. 11 Hoyas (10-1) in the second Conference matchup for both this season today at noon at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C. The game will be televised nationally by ESPN with Dan Shulman handling play-by-play and Dick Vitale adding color.

"Without question, that's our rivalry,'' Pitt senior point guard Levance Fields said. "I know they'll be looking forward to it.''

Georgetown likely will be out to avenge two straight losses to the Panthers. The Hoyas were the No. 5 team in the country when they played Pitt at the Pete. And Georgetown was highly favored, because Fields (broken foot) and fifth-year senior forward Mike Cook (knee) were out with injuries.

Pitt opened a one-point halftime lead with a 10-2 run to start the second half. Despite an 8-0 run by the Hoyas, the Panthers held them off with three-point plays by Keith Benjamin and DeJuan Blair and sealed it with six straight free throws. Blair had 15 points and nine rebounds, while seniors Benjamin and Ronald Ramon tossed in 18 each.

Pitt also pulled off an upset in the Big East Tournament. Georgetown was the No. 1 seed, while Pitt was seventh. But that didn't stop the Panthers. Pitt out-rebounded the Hoyas and led at halftime. An 8-0 second-half run, fueled by Blair's play inside, as well as 16 points from tourney MVP Sam Young and 17 by Ramon secured the win. Blair had 10 points and 10 boards.

"It's a crazy rivalry,'' Young said. "We want to beat them (and) whip them up every chance we get. Since I've been here, they never won at the Petersen, but we never won at Verizon Center. We always seem to lose there. Now, I have an opportunity to play in front of friends and family and get a win. I can't wait.''

This year's matchup should be just as intensely fought. Remember the game at the Pete last year. Georgetown's Roy Hibbert dissed Blair at center court. Then a freshman, Blair approached Hibbert to shake his hand and wish him the best before the game, but the senior center kept walking. He barely acknowledged Blair. Two years ago, Cook and Georgetown's DaJuan Summers had to be separated by game officials several times.

"Our games against them have a lot of intensity,'' Pitt redshirt sophomore forward Gilbert Brown said. "That's the way we like it. I think it favors us when games are like that. It gets us going.''

Pitt won that meeting at the Pete, but lost in Washington, D.C. The Panthers had an eight-point second-half lead and couldn't hold on. A win would have given Pitt the Big East regular-season crown, but the Hoyas pulled it out. Georgetown also beat the Panthers, 65-42, in the Big East Tournament a short time later.

"We were successful against them last year because we were hungry,'' Pitt sophomore guard Bradley Wanamaker said. "We have to be hungry again.''

Pitt is slightly favored today. The Panthers are among a half-dozen teams still undefeated this season after stopping Rutgers in their Big East opener. The Hoyas knocked off No. 2 Connecticut in Hartford. In a rivalry like this one, Georgetown will need to play just as well against Pitt.

In the UConn win, junior forward DaJuan Summers scored a game-high 18 points to lead four Hoyas in double figures, with sophomore guard Chris Wright and freshman center Greg Monroe each scoring 16 points. Sophomore guard Austin Freeman added 13 points and a team-high six rebounds in the victory. Summers has scored in double-figures in all 11 games this season and has a streak of 12 games dating back to last season. He is averaging a team-high 14.6 points per game, with a season-high of 21 against Memphis December 13.

Georgetown has four players averaging double figures in scoring with Summers leading the way at 14.6 points per game and Wright adding 13.6 points per game. Freeman is third on the squad with 14.4 points per game. Monroe is fourth on the team with 12.7 points per game and leads the team with 5.4 rebounds. Monroe is seventh in the Big East in field-goal percentage (57.9) and fifth in the league with 1.91 blocked shots per game.

Young is one of the three players averaging double figures in scoring. Young leads the team and is fourth in the Big East with 19.9 points per game, while averaging 5.7 rebounds and shooting 52.1 percent from the floor. Blair is second in scoring with 13.7 points and is second in the Conference with 12.1 rebounds per game. Fields is third with 10.4 points per game and leads the Big East with 7.5 assists per game.


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