The last time Georgetown won consecutive Big East tournament titles, it had a superstar center leading the way. This year’s team appears to be no different as Roy Hibbert has the top-seeded Hoyas in position to claim back-to-back championships for the first time in 23 years.
They’ll get that chance Saturday in a rematch of last year’s championship game against Pittsburgh, a team that has made a home for itself at Madison Square Garden in New York.
The No. 9 Hoyas (27-4) routed Pittsburgh 65-42 in the 2007 league championship behind Hibbert’s 18 points and 11 rebounds. They haven’t won consecutive crowns since Patrick Ewing led them to the 1984 and 1985 titles.
Hibbert, though, used an outstanding performance to get Georgetown back to the final, posting season highs of 25 points and 13 rebounds in Friday’s 72-55 semifinal victory over West Virginia. The senior’s performance came one game after he went scoreless and fouled out of Georgetown’s 82-63 quarterfinal win over Villanova in which the Hoyas compensated with a team-record 17 3-pointers.
“I knew he was going to come out hungry, so we wanted to feed him,” said Hoyas junior guard Jessie Sapp, who added 13 points against the Mountaineers after scoring a career-high 23 on Thursday. “We wanted to keep feeding him and feeding him. We need him in the game like that for us to win.”
Hibbert has helped Georgetown improve to 14-0 all-time as the tournament’s No. 1 seed, winning the conference title all four times after winning the regular season championship - including last season. The school has won the tournament a Big East-best seven times.
“I’m a monster, I’m a monster. Be afraid,” Hibbert said, cracking a grin while coach John Thompson III popped him upside the head after Friday’s win. “It’s just the way our team is working and making stops. I just said, ‘You know what? Just keep cranking those buckets out.’”
Hibbert had 12 points and 10 rebounds in Georgetown’s 69-60 loss at Pittsburgh (25-9) on Jan. 14.
The seventh-seeded Panthers look to replicate that performance in their third straight Big East title games and seventh in eight years. However, they only won it in 2003.
“It’s time to cash in here and get this championship,” Panthers junior guard Levance Fields said.
Pitt has used stifling defensive play to return to the final, holding its three tournament opponents to 64.7 points on 35.8 percent shooting. That has also helped the Panthers improve to 5-0 at MSG this season, and 19-6 in tournament play over the last seven-plus years—the best tournament record for any Big East team in that span.
“A lot of guys’ families are out there because we have so many New York guys,” Panthers forward Sam Young said of the five New York metropolitan area natives on the team’s roster. “When you look at the crowd and you see your family, your crowd and your friends, it gives you a lot of extra energy to take the extra step, take the initiative you need to win the game.”
Young helped Pitt get a step closer to their second title, scoring 22 points while the team held 25th-ranked Marquette to 31.1 percent shooting (19-for-61) in Friday’s 68-61 semifinal win. The junior has been key throughout the tournament, scoring 21 points in defeating both Cincinnati and Louisville the previous two nights.
Young, though, had his worst game of the season against Georgetown on Jan. 14, scoring nine points on 3-for-13 shooting.
Ronald Ramon, a native of the Bronx, N.Y., put up a season-high 18 points in that contest. The senior guard had 14 against the Golden Eagles, and has gone 9-for-18 from 3-point range in Pittsburgh’s run to the final.
The winner of this game will claim an automatic berth in next week’s NCAA tournament, while loser is all but assured of an at-large spot in the field of 65.