Saturday , Feb , 24 , 2007 C.Y. Ellis

Top-25 foes meet in Big East action

Washington, D.C. (Sports Network) – The top two teams in the Big East collide
in the nation’s capital, as the 10th-ranked Pittsburgh Panthers invade the
Verizon Center to battle the 12th-ranked Georgetown Hoyas in a critical
league tilt that could decide the conference crown.

The Panthers have won two straight and seven of their last eight games
overall, including a thrilling 71-68 decision over Seton Hall on Monday.
With the victory, Pittsburgh moved to 24-4 overall and 11-2 in-

By virtue of Georgetown’s 75-65 win at Cincinnati on Wednesday, the Hoyas
joined the Panthers atop the league standings at 11-2. There may not be a
hotter team in the conference right now, as Georgetown has won 10
straight games and hasn’t lost since falling to this same Pittsburgh squad on
the road on January 13th (74-69).

Pittsburgh will close out the regular season with West Virginia and
Marquette next week, while Georgetown will take on Syracuse and
Connecticut. The Hoyas hold a 37-30 edge in the all-time series, but
Pittsburgh has closed the gap a bit with seven wins in the last 10
meetings, including the aforementioned five-point decision at the Petersen
Events Center earlier this year.

There is certainly nothing flashy about the way Pittsburgh plays basketball.
The Panthers are a hard-nosed defensive squad that likes to methodically go
about its business. The team is limiting foes to a mere 61.4 ppg this year,
holding them to just .402 shooting, including a .307 clip from behind the arc.
In addition, Pitt is outrebounding foes by almost five boards per game.
Offensively, the team doesn’t light up scoreboards at 72.1 ppg, but is
efficient, hitting on almost 49 percent from the floor (.486). All-American
candidate Aaron Gray is the crown jewel in the middle for Pittsburgh. The
seven-foot senior is averaging a double-double, leading the team in scoring
(14.5 ppg), rebounding (10.0 rpg) and blocked shots (45). However, he is
expected to miss this game with an ankle injury. Mike Cook (10.3 ppg) is the
only other player currently averaging double digits, but both Levance Fields
(9.8 ppg) and Antonio Graves (9.5 ppg) could join him by season’s end. The
Panthers got the job done this week without the services of Gray. Still, the
team shot 55.1 percent from the floor and placed three players in double
figures. Fields led the way with 15 points. Levon Kendall and Sam Young
finished things off with 15 and 11 points, respectively.

The Hoyas won their 10th straight conference game with the 10-point decision
over Cincinnati, marking the first time the team has done that since the
1984-85 campaign. In the win over the Bearcats, Jeff Green led the charge,
erupting for a game-high 21 points. Jonathan Wallace and Jessie Sapp did the
rest, netting 17 and 14 points, respectively. The Hoyas shot an efficient .542
from the floor in the game and held Cincinnati just under 40 percent (.397),
while forcing 17 turnovers. There is nothing special about Georgetown’s
offensive gameplan. The team is not offensive-minded at all, coming in with a
scoring average of just 69.3 ppg. However, that number is a bit deceiving
considering the team ranks second nationally in field-goal percentage at .523.
Defensively, there aren’t many teams better than the Hoyas, who are limiting
opponents to just 56.5 ppg (sixth nationally) and 38.9 percent shooting (10th
nationally). Green and seven-footer Roy Hibbert are a potent combination in
the frontcourt. Green leads the team in scoring at 13.7 ppg, while Hibbert has
really stepped up his game in the middle, averaging 12.8 ppg on a remarkable
.702 shooting. He is also tops on the team in rebounding (6.4 rpg) and in
blocked shots (60). Wallace (11.2 ppg) and Sapp (9.3 ppg) provide backcourt