PITTSBURGH -- Jamie Dixon didn't give up hope, not when Pittsburgh lost to Wagner. Not when Rutgers held the Panthers to all of 39 points. Not when the program's longest losing streak in well over a decade sent it tumbling to the bottom of the Big East.
The coach kept insisting the Panthers would be OK when they got healthy.
It took longer -- a lot longer -- than Dixon expected. Turns out, he might be right.
Nasir Robinson scored 23 points and made all nine of his field goal attempts to lead Pitt past Georgetown (No. 10 ESPN/USA Today, No. 9 AP) 72-60 on Saturday.
"We're looking at the last two games, that's our team," Dixon said. "That's what we can control and that's what our mentality has been."
Lamar Patterson added 18 points, seven assists and four rebounds for the Panthers (13-9, 2-7 Big East), who never trailed while improving to 12-0 against Top 10 teams at the Petersen Events Center.
"We were aggressive," Patterson said. "We weren't letting them push us around. We just held our ground and really wanted to focus in on defense. We haven't been good on defense all year, basically, so we wanted to show everyone we could play defense."
The Hoyas pulled within 55-49 with 4:09 remaining before Patterson fed Dante Taylor for a dunk and then hit Robinson for a wide-open layup to give the Panthers some breathing room.
When Ashton Gibbs hit a pull-up to push the lead to 61-49, the Panthers were on their way to a second straight win following a miserable eight-game losing streak.
Pitt ended five weeks of agony with a victory over struggling Providence on Wednesday. Dixon tried not to make too much of the win, calling it simply a starting point for the long climb back.
If beating the Friars was one small step, knocking off the Hoyas was a good-sized leap.
The return of point guard Tray Woodall from injury has given the Panthers a sense of identity they've lacked this season. Pitt struggled offensively without its only proven ballhandler. Though he wasn't as sharp as he was in his second game back against Providence -- when he scored 17 points and made all four of his 3-pointers -- he didn't have to be.
Woodall finished with just four points but added a game-high 10 assists while leading an offense that had little trouble sharing the ball. Pittsburgh finished with 20 assists on 25 field goals, picking apart Georgetown's defense with relative ease. Pitt shot 52 percent (25-of-48) from the floor.
"Both of those areas (rebounding and defense), we were awful," Georgetown coach John Thompson III said. "They got everything they wanted and when they didn't they got the rebound, and that's the difference."
Pitt took control with arguably its best 10 minutes of the season, using a 15-1 run midway through the first half to go up 29-12. While the Panthers surged behind Robinson and Talib Zanna, the Hoyas went ice cold while missing 10 straight shots and three of four free throws during the stretch. Georgetown couldn't hold onto the ball either, giving it away four times during Pitt's run, not all of the miscues coming because of pressure.
"It's just a stretch where the ball didn't go in the basket and they were getting easy shots at the other end," Thompson said. "We spotted them whatever lead it was. When we missed those shots it turned into baskets."
Jason Clark ended the 7-minute field goal drought with a pull-up jumper and the Hoyas used a pair of late 3-pointers to get within 33-22 at halftime.
Georgetown's momentum carried over after the break. The Hoyas drew within 39-34 on a three-point play by Clark. Yet the Panthers, perhaps buoyed by the first truly raucous atmosphere at The Pete all season, responded.
Robinson, bothered by lingering soreness from offseason knee surgery, hit consecutive layups, the second off a nifty feed from Patterson.
"He hurt 'em in zone, he hurt 'em in man," Dixon said of Robinson. "You can't say enough about the kid. He gets his knee drained one or two times a week and he's out here battling."
Patterson added a 19-footer to again give the Panthers some space.
The Hoyas, who had their three-game winning streak snapped, struggled to get into a consistent rhythm. Though they forced the Panthers into 17 turnovers, they couldn't turn the giveaways into points.
Pitt has abandoned its traditional man-to-man defense this season, going with a zone that helps it overcome a significant size disadvantage in the frontcourt. The Panthers held their own against the Hoyas, limiting Georgetown to 42 percent shooting and holding a 35-23 advantage on the boards.
It added up to Pitt's biggest win of the season, as the Big East's winningest program over the last decade continued an upswing it hopes will carry into the second half of its conference schedule.
"We're getting better," Dixon said. "That's what you want to do at this point in the year. That's evident offensively and defensively. It's encouraging."
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