Hoyas on edge of obscurity


LANDOVER -- Parity has come to the Big East and it isn't pretty.

Not unless you're Paul Evans of Pittsburgh, it isn't, anyway. In that case, it's nothing less than breathtaking.

"This is no longer a league where Syracuse and Georgetown beat up everybody else," Evans advised last night.

That was the closest Evans came to crowing about No. 22 Pitt's 78-65 conquest of No. 25 Georgetown before 12,297 eyewitnesses at the Capital Centre. Parity, apparently, is not something you brag about.

In the Big East's latest installment of "How the Mighty Have Fallen," scandal-ridden Syracuse took a 77-72 blow on the chin at St. John's while Georgetown was exposing its bare cupboards against Pitt. The resulting repercussions in the conference standings saw Pitt (19-8, 8-5) move into sole possession of second place, one game behind Syracuse (9-4). They also had the Hoyas (15-9, 7-6) diving past St. John's (9-6) into a four-way tie for fourth. Georgetown's next stop may well be out of the national rankings en route to postseason obscurity.

This is how bad it has gotten for the Hoyas this season:

* They have lost three in a row, four of six and seven of the last 13.

* They are a very mediocre 11-9 against Division I opponents this season.

* Until last night, they had never lost to Pitt at the Cap Centre in eight previous meetings.

Georgetown coach John Thompson did his best to quell the Hoyas' paranoia with a Mark Twain imitation.

"In my 19 years at Georgetown, I've participated in my funeral a lot of times," he said. "But somehow, the kids refuse to let people throw dirt on us.

"We'll survive it."

Not with the kind of shooting the Hoyas have been getting lately, they won't. With their starting guards hitting six of 22, the Hoyas shot an abysmal 37 percent against Pitt's 2-3 zone and man-to-man defenses.

While Joey Brown (3-for-9) and Charles Harrison (3-for-13) combined for 14 Hoya points, Pitt's backcourt tandem of Sean Miller (7-for-12) and Jason Matthews (10-for-10 at the foul line) clicked for 39. Miller's game-high 21 points included three straight three-point jumpers early in the second half.

"We were getting open shots, but a lot weren't dropping early," Thompson decided. "It's worse to get good shots and miss than bad shots and miss. That tends to tighten you up."

Georgetown didn't loosen up until there was a 10-minute stoppage of play to fix a scoreboard halfway through the second half. Pitt led by 15 at that point. And even though Dikembe TC Mutombo (18 points, 11 rebounds) and Alonzo Mourning (17 points, four rebounds) finally awoke with a thundering run of dunks, the Hoyas couldn't cut the deficit to less than eight.

Where it all leads is uncertain territory for Georgetown. Thompson's teams have made 16 straight postseason appearances, but never, perhaps, on such weak footing.

"We're more concerned with getting to a comfort level where we're doing something well [than postseason play]," he said.

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