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Page's late free throw lifts Pitt over Hoyas

1/25/2003

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Georgetown was the bully on the Big East block
for years. The Hoyas weren't about to willingly cede that title to
Pittsburgh, even if the Panthers are now seen as the most physical
team in a notoriously tough conference.

Julius Page made a free throw with 0.4 seconds remaining to cap
No. 2 Pittsburgh's second-half rally and the Panthers, making free throws when it counted, held off Georgetown 65-64 Saturday.

Chevy Troutman, Pitt's only reliable free throw shooter for much
of the intense, foul-filled game, keyed the comeback by scoring all
but one of his 20 points in the second half. His five consecutive
points gave Pitt the lead for good at 59-56.

The Panthers are 15-1 for the second straight season and 5-0 in
the Big East for the first time. In their first close home game
this season, they held Georgetown's Mike Sweetney to 12 points,
nearly 10 below his average, yet still had a struggle.

"It was physical, but you've got to expect that,'' Pitt coach
Ben Howland said. "Georgetown wrote the book on physical. It
wasn't dirty, but it was a hard-fought, physical game.''

Pitt seemed to be in control, leading 64-60 with 24 seconds
remaining, but Drew Hall and Brandon Bowman each made two free
throws to tie it. Bowman, a freshman, made his with 3.5 seconds
remaining.

Page then took Jaron Brown's inbounds pass and, driving from
near midcourt, was fouled by Hall as he lost his balance while
nearing the basket. Page made the first free throw, then
intentionally missed the second so time could expire before
Georgetown (10-5, 2-3) could get off a desperation shot.

"I was sure he was going to make it,'' Pitt's Brandin Knight
said. "Everybody talks about our (mediocre) foul shooting, but I
had the utmost confidence he was going to make that shot.''

Brown was supposed to pass to Carl Krauser, who was to get it to Page. Instead, Brown threw directly to Page.

"He said he was open,'' Howland said. "He's got a lot of
guts.''

In a tightly called, bodies-on-the-floor game in which six
players fouled out -- four from Georgetown -- it seemingly was a bad
omen for Pitt when a bank of lights went out early in the first
half.

There was enough light to continue play but, by the time the
lights came back on three minutes later, Pitt trailed 7-1. Even
with Sweetney contributing little offensively, the Hoyas opened
leads of as many as seven points.

Still, Knight said Pitt never felt out of its element, despite
the slow pace created by the numerous foul calls. Knight blamed
that on Georgetown coach Craig Esherick's recent tirade that the
6-foot-8 Sweetney is fouled repeatedly.

"The refs got more involved,'' Knight said. "Everybody has us
labeled as a physical team and everybody thinks we're always
fouling. But if you really watch us, you see that's not going on.''

Esherick had no complaints, even though the Hoyas were called
for 33 fouls to Pitt's 25.

"You're not going to get me on any tirade today,'' he said. "I
love officials. When I see guys in striped shirts, I just want to
hug them.''

Pittsburgh probably didn't -- at least not until catching up with
a 6-0 run early in the second half that made it 31-all.

With Troutman constantly working free against Georgetown's zone
for layups and short-range shots, the Panthers outscored the Hoyas
23-8 over the opening eight minutes of the half to take a 48-37
lead.

Troutman didn't miss a shot, going 5-for-5 from the field and
10-of-10 from the free throw line in only 17 minutes.

Bowman and Tony Bethel each had 16 points for Georgetown.

Even with Sweetney going scoreless for more than 20 minutes, the
Hoyas not only weren't done, they answered Pitt's run by scoring 11
consecutive points to tie it at 48.

The teams traded the lead eight times over the next five minutes
before Troutman converted a three-point play -- his third of the
half -- to put Pitt up 57-56 with 3:52 remaining.

Troutman's layup made it 59-56, and Knight and Donatas Zavackas
later made two free throws to answer baskets by Sweetney and
restore Pitt's three-point lead. Pitt was only 24-of-41 at the line
but made seven of its last nine.

Page and Knight each scored 10 points for Pitt.

Until Saturday, Pitt's closest game in its new Petersen Events
Center was a 13-point victory over Syracuse on Jan. 18. The
Panthers are 11-0 at home, while all of Georgetown's losses are on
the road.