New York, NY – The 13th-seeded Pittsburgh Panthers will have their hands full today as they square off with the No. 5 seed, Georgetown Hoyas, in the second round of the 2012 Big East Conference Tournament at Madison Square Garden.
The winner of this bout will advance to face the fourth-seeded Cincinnati Bearcats in the quarterfinal round on Thursday.
Although the Hoyas own a 40-35 lead in the all-time series with Pitt, the Panthers managed to pick up a 72-60 in the only meeting between the programs this season. Nasir Robinson was unstoppable in their first matchup, as he went 9-of-9 from the floor to guide Pitt to a victory in front of its home crowd at the Petersen Events Center.
Pittsburgh (17-15) began its post season on Tuesday with a 73-59 victory over St. John's in the first round of the tournament. Coach Jamie Dixon had his team prepared as it held the Red Storm to 33.3 percent shooting in the contest, which was its best defensive mark of the season. Although their only hope for a return to the NCAA Tournament is a run through the Big East Tournament, the Panthers appeared to be playing very loose versus St. John's offensively, especially in the final 20 minutes. Pitt drained 57.1 percent of its field goals in the second half to run into the second round with some momentum.
The Panthers' potential for a run through the tourney is better than their overall or conference record will indicate, as long as Ashton Gibbs continues to perform at a high level. The senior guard finished the year in a shooting slump, but he appears to have left his woes in the regular season as he knocked down 4-of-9 from three-point range on his way to a game-high 20 points on Tuesday. Robinson chipped in 15 points and eight rebounds for Pitt, which did a great job distributing the ball and finished with 15 team assists.
Coach John Thompson III's displeasure with his team's failure to secure a double-bye in the Big East Tournament with its 83-69 loss to Marquette in the season finale is even more understandable now. Georgetown (22-7) is heading to the Big Dance regardless of its performance in the conference tourney. The Hoyas will present a challenge for anyone they face the rest of the way, as their scoring defense is the second best in the highly competitive Big East with an allowed average of just 59 ppg. Georgetown held 10 of its opponents to 50 points or less this season. In addition to their strong defense, the Hoyas are also an exceptional team on the glass as they have outrebounded their opponents by 5.6 boards per game.
Georgetown will look to its seniors Jason Clark and Henry Sims for leadership through the postseason. Clark led the team in scoring, steals, and minutes this season while serving as the team's primary ball handler. Sims adds 11.1 points and a team-best 3.4 assists per game from the center position. Hollis Thompson is sure to make an impact with his aggressive play from the forward slot. Otto Porter is the main ingredient to GU's rebounding success, as he leads the squad with 6.8 rebounds per game.