Georgetown showed the ill effects of a week off Saturday, digging a 17-point hole from which it couldn’t get out, eventually falling against Pittsburgh, 72-60. The Hoyas sleep walked through much of the first half, sputtering on offense and not getting back on defense. While the deficit eventually was narrowed to five, the blue and gray committed too may errors, largely in the form of poor defensive rotations and forced shots on offense, to overtake a renewed Pittsburgh team.
Make no mistake: this was not the same Pitt team that lost its first seven Big East games. Panther point guard Tray Woodall returned before Wednesday’s win over Providence, revitalizing a downtrodden team. Saturday, Woodall generated a number of easy opportunities for his teammates, finishing with 10 assists. Several of those helpers came as fellow Panthers slipped screens and otherwise exploited a Georgetown defense that switches on picks. Particular beneficiaries were Nasir Robinson and Lamar Patterson, who combined to shoot 15 of 17 from the field to finish with 39 points.
Still, Georgetown was as bad as Pitt was good. The missed defensive rotations that led to so many easy Panther baskets were largely because of slow feet and poor communication by the Hoya defense. And the offense was little better: tentative cuts and poor ball movement helped hold the Hoyas to just 11 points in the first 15-plus minutes. Even the baskets the Hoyas could manage were outside the flow of the offense, and free throws again were an issue, as Georgetown finished just 7 of 12 from the line. Before Georgetown could right the ship, the deficit was a nigh-insurmountable 28-11.
Then, the Hoyas started clicking. Improved defense held the Panthers to just 5 points over as many minutes, while three-pointers from Otto Porter and Greg Whittington fueled an offensive spurt narrowed the Pitt advantage to 11 at the half. (Had the old bugaboo–foul shots–not bitten Georgetown again in the last minute, when Porter missed the front end of a one-and-one, the lead might have been single digits.)
Georgetown came out of the break on the same trajectory as it closed the first half. Henry Sims–sluggish, silent, and ineffective in the first half–took over the post, scoring all 10 of his points after intermission and finding open teammates for suddenly easy baskets. And Jason Clark, who had scored just two points in the first half, scored twice off the bounce to pull the Hoyas within just five, a number that they matched on a Sims jump hook on the next possession.
But the errors were too many the rest of the way. For every stout defensive possession that resulted in a forced shot or 35-second violation, there was a slow-footed rotation that left Patterson or Robinson open under the hoop. On offense, a couple of forced jumpers frittered away possessions the Hoyas could scarcely afford to waste. Although Porter was excellent, leading the team with 14 points and 6 rebounds, the other offensive options, and the defensive stops, were too few. Georgetown would never again get closer than six.
The Hoyas’ offensive droughts have become something of a theme over recent weeks, whether in the closing minutes against Cincinnati, the entire first half against Rutgers, or the opening fifteen or so minutes against Pitt Saturday. Georgetown is even more susceptible to bouts of offensive ineptitude when one or more of its upperclassmen struggle. Saturday, the veteran in question was Hollis Thompson who, despite scoring 11 points, struggled for the second straight game, going scoreless between the Hoyas’ opening bucket and a largely meaningless eight-point flourish in the final minute.
While Georgetown (barely) withstood long scoreless stretches against Rutgers thanks to rugged defense of its own, the Hoyas could not contain a Pitt offense that, whatever the struggles of the team as a whole, remains highly efficient, and shot 52 percent from the field Saturday. Wednesday, the Hoyas will have a similarly small margin for error when they host the defending national champion UConn Huskies.