Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Hoyas Hope to Cage Panthers

Super Bowl Sunday may be coming up, but on the Hilltop there is no contest more important than the Georgetown-Pittsburgh basketball game.

The No. 17 Hoyas enter the game 15-4 (6-2 Big East), winners of 12 of their last 14. Their most recent affair, a 64-44 laugher at DePaul, was close only when the Blue Demons took a 2-0 lead. The Hoyas went on an 18-0 run to put the game out of reach. Georgetown comes into the game winners of five in a row at home.

Pittsburgh, ranked ninth nationally, enters the contest 17-2 (6-2 Big East), tied with Georgetown for fourth in the Big East. Tuesday, Pittsburgh fell to No. 1 UConn, 80-76.

Pittsburgh is led by one of the Big East’s best inside-outside threats. Down low, the 7-foot junior center Aaron Gray has been one of the league’s best big men, posting 13.6 points and 10.9 rebounds per contest. He will be one of the biggest challenges – both literally and figuratively – Georgetown’s sophomore center Roy Hibbert has seen this year.

On the perimeter, point guard Carl Krauser has been the catalyst of the Panther’s offense. Almost 25, the red-shirt senior averages 16.4 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 4.5 assists per game. On the defensive end, he averages two steals.

Complimenting Gray and Krauser are four players that average at least 16 minutes. Freshman forward Sam Young, who hails from the D.C. area, is third on the team in scoring with an average of 8.5. Red-shirt junior forward Levon Kendall and sophomore guard Ronald Ramon each log just over 20 minutes a night and net roughly seven points. Kendall chips in 5.8 boards per contest.

Though senior forward John DeGroat has started all 19 games, he plays an average of just 12.6 minutes and scores a modest 3.6 points. Also getting regular minutes for the Panthers is freshman guard Levance Fields, who averages 5.9 points.

On the offensive end of the floor, Pittsburgh and Georgetown do many of the same things well. The Panthers score slightly more points per game – 74.4 compared to 69.8 – but the Hoyas shoot better from the field, 48.7 percent as opposed to 44.7. From three-point land, Georgetown connects on 38 percent of their (374) attempts, while Pitt (348 tries) cashes in 35.1 percent of the time.

Both teams do their best to distribute the ball. Pittsburgh has recorded an assist on 67.4 percent of their baskets, while Georgetown does so 64 percent of the time. Assists per basket is one of the main statistics used to measure the effectiveness of the Princeton offense.

The Panthers do demonstrate some balance on offense, but theirs does not compare to that shown by the Hoyas. Georgetown boasts six players that average between 9.2 and 11.8 points. Hibbert leads the way, and has led the team in scoring seven times this year, but four other Hoyas have led the team in single-game scoring. Senior forward Brandon Bowman, senior guard Darrel Owens, and sophomore forward Jeff Green have each done so four times, and Ashanti Cook has even done it once.

On the defensive end of the court, both teams have effectively held their opponents in check. Georgetown allows a mere 60 points per game, and Pittsburgh is right there with them at 61. The Hoyas force almost 13 turnovers per game, while the Panthers average just over 14. Rebounding – sometimes a strength and other times a weakness for Georgetown – seems to favor Pittsburgh, as the Panthers have outrebounded opponents 39.7-32.3. The Hoyas best their opponents on the boards by a smaller margin, 32.9-29.1. If Pittsburgh does have an advantage, however, it is a slight one.

“They’re a very good team,” Hoya Head Coach John Thompson III said. “They’re a team, if you look at them, they have a lot of boxes they can check. They’re good on the perimeter, they’re good inside, play tough defense, they can make shots, they can take you off the dribble. They can hurt you offensively in a lot of different ways and on the defensive end, they’re tough. They make you earn every point.”

While perhaps not a must-win game, Sunday’s match against Pittsburgh would be an important victory for Georgetown. Both teams have been dogged by concerns that their schedules are weak – the Hoyas’ only win against a top-25 team was the Duke game (nothing to take lightly, but still just one game), while the Panthers best wins have come against Wisconsin (15-6, 5-3 Big Ten) and Marquette (15-6, 6-3 Big East), neither of which are currently ranked. Whichever squad comes out on top on Sunday will have a huge win to add to add to their resume and should move up a few spots in the important, if cryptic, RPI.

Sunday’s game is critical for the Hoyas, even if Thompson says he is not thinking about the standings, “Honestly, and this is not coach-speak, I have not thought that through. I have not started to weigh out seedings and pairings.”

But With four teams offered a first-round bye in next month’s Big East tournament, league standings are critical. The Hoyas still have a very real shot at being among the top four.

“I think we take every game serious, ranked or not,” Owens said. “That’s what we`ve been doing the last couple of weeks. Obviously, it started with a big win over the No. 1 team in the country, but I think we just take every game in stride and just try to play hard every game.”

The key to this game could be Hibbert against Gray. Though the Hoyas won without Hibbert logging many minutes against Duke, Sunday will be different. The Blue Devils’ Shelden Williams (6-foot-9) was short enough that Jeff Green (also 6-foot-9) could guard him, and do it well.

Gray, on the other hand, is 7-foot. Georgetown will need the 7-foot-2 Hibbert to keep on Gray and deny the easy looks that Pitt will try to create for him. If Hibbert’s defense is lacking, or he picks up too many early fouls, Green will have to guard the big man and likely risk foul trouble of his own. If Green is given the opportunity to match-up with the smaller Kendall, he should able to have his way on both ends of the floor.

Since that milestone victory against Duke, the Hoyas have shown a confidence on offense not seen on the Hilltop in years and a defense good enough to beat almost anyone. If Georgetown can protect the ball against Pittsburgh’s pressure defense – something they excelled at against Duke – they should be able to run their offense with its usual methodical effectiveness. And, if they can be competitive on the glass, the Hoyas should show the nation what they are truly made of.

Tip-off is set for noon at MCI Center.

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