Saturday , Mar , 10 , 2007 C.Y. Ellis

Panthers and Hoyas meet for Big East title

New York, NY (Sports Network) – In search of their first Big East Conference
Tournament crown since 1989, the top-seeded and ninth-ranked Georgetown Hoyas
clash with the 13th-ranked Pittsburgh Panthers in the championship game of the
28th annual event tonight at Madison Square Garden.

The Hoyas, who are tied with UConn for the most Big East Tournament titles with
six, began their quest for this year’s trophy by taking out Villanova in the
quarterfinals on Thursday (62-57) and then topping Notre Dame by a single
basket yesterday (84-82).

As for the third- seeded Panthers, who are now 21-23 in the tournament and
brought home the trophy in 2003 with a 74-56 triumph over the UConn Huskies,
this is the sixth appearance in the championship game in the last seven years.
After losing two of the last three games to close out the regular season, Pitt
has defeated both Marquette (89-79) and Louisville (65-59) over the last two
days in New York City.

The teams split their two meetings during the regular season, with both winning
at home. In early January it was Pittsburgh which posted the 74-69 triumph,
while Georgetown registered a 61-53 decision just three weeks ago in the
nation’s capital. Having taken 20 of the 30 contests played in Washington, D.C.
over the years, the Hoyas now lead the all-time series by a count of 38-30.

Pittsburgh trailed by 11 points at the break against the Cardinals yesterday
and appeared to be on their way out, but then the Panthers limited Louisville
to just nine field goals in the second half, including a mere 4-of-19 behind
the three-point line in what turned into a six-point win for Pitt. While the
Panthers were converting 10-of-17 at the free-throw line in the second half,
the Cardinals failed to make a single trip to the stripe in the frame and were
outscored at the line overall, 20-3. Antonio Graves posted a game-high 23
points on 4-of-6 shooting beyond the arc for Pittsburgh, followed by Mike Cook
who tallied 13 and eight boards. Playing with foul trouble, Aaron Gray
registered just eight points in 13 minutes. Despite the poor effort on Friday,
Gray still leads the Panthers in scoring overall this season with his 14.4 ppg
and is also the top man on the glass with 9.8 rpg. Cook checks in with 10.7 ppg
as the only other double-digit scorer, which means the output by Graves (9.5
ppg) yesterday was rather unexpected. In the two previous meetings against
Georgetown this season, Gray had been held in check with a total of only 21

Needing someone to step up and take charge in the closing moments, the Hoyas
turned to Jeff Green who converted a jumper with 13 seconds remaining to give
the team the narrow two-point victory over the upstart Fighting Irish. Green
finished the outing with a game-high 30 points on 9-of-21 shooting from the
floor and 12-of-14 at the free-throw line. Green added a team-best 12 rebounds
as well to make up for the lackluster effort of Roy Hibbert who fouled out
after only 21 minutes, producing six points, five blocks and four rebounds in
that time. DaJuan Summers and Jonathan Wallace checked in with 18 and 10
points, respectively, combining for nine of the team’s 17 assists as well.
Considering the Hoyas shot 52.5 percent from the field and limited Notre Dame
to only 39.7 percent, it was surprising that the game was even that close.
Green’s scoring output is now up to 14.0 ppg, which is right on point with his
production against Pittsburgh this year at a total of 29 points. Hibbert (12.5
ppg) has matched Green for the team-high with 6.2 rpg and is one of the
league’s best in terms of blocked shots with 77, but having scored seven points
or fewer in four of the last seven games means the team cannot always count on
his offensive production.