Pitt down and out after loss

Panthers' 10-year NCAA run over; NIT bid possible
March 8, 2012 1:21 am
  • Pitt's Nasir Robinson, left, Dante Taylor, J.J. Moore and Ashton Gibbs watch the final seconds of the Panthers' loss to Georgetown Wednesday in the second round of the Big East tournament at Madison Square Garden.
    Pitt's Nasir Robinson, left, Dante Taylor, J.J. Moore and Ashton Gibbs watch the final seconds of the Panthers' loss to Georgetown Wednesday in the second round of the Big East tournament at Madison Square Garden.
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NEW YORK -- For weeks, Pitt's players knew in the back of their minds they were going to have to come to the Big East tournament and win five games in five days to advance to the NCAA tournament for an 11th consecutive season. But the finality of a season gone badly wrong hit the Panthers hard in the moments after Georgetown ended any hopes of a miracle run here Wednesday afternoon.

Inside a somber locker room at Madison Square Garden, senior guard Ashton Gibbs described his feelings after a 64-52 defeat in the second round of the tournament.

"It was tough," Gibbs said. "I wouldn't have thought in a million years that we wouldn't have made the NCAA tournament at the beginning of the season. It's something we have to live with."

It was especially a difficult moment for the seniors. Gibbs and Nasir Robinson had fallen short in the NCAA tournament as a high seed the past three seasons, and they were hoping for another shot at that elusive NCAA championship.

The Panthers started the season ranked No. 10 in the polls and won 11 of their first 12 games before falling on hard times. After a series of injuries and the transfer of starting center Khem Birch, they lost 15 of their final 21 games. Now, they are hoping to get any invitation to the National Invitation Tournament.

"We expected so much from ourselves," sophomore forward Lamar Patterson said. "We didn't follow through on it. We feel like we let everyone down. We feel like we let coach [Jamie] Dixon down."

Pitt played well for the first 14 minutes against Georgetown, but the 14th-ranked Hoyas made their move late in the first half and took control.

They finished the half on a 16-2 run over the final 6:28 and took a 31-23 lead into the intermission.

The Panthers showed some signs of life at the beginning of the second half when they trimmed the lead to two with three consecutive baskets, but two 3-pointers in less than a minute from the Hoyas restored the eight-point lead, and the Panthers never threatened again.

The Panthers had confidence entering the game because they played so well against Georgetown in a 72-60 victory in late January at Petersen Events Center.

Ray Fittipaldo: rfittipaldo@post-gazette.com and Twitter @rayfitt1.
First Published 2012-03-07 23:21:12

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