More than a decade after his father last took Georgetown to the Big East tournament championship game, John Thompson III has the Hoyas in position for another title.
The ninth-ranked Hoyas try for their seventh tournament crown as they face a 13th-ranked Pittsburgh team with plenty of recent experience in the Big East final Saturday at Madison Square Garden.
John Thompson led the Hoyas to each of their six tournament titles, with the most recent coming in 1989. He also took Georgetown to its last Big East title game in 1996.
His son, Thompson III, took over the team in 2004 and led the Hoyas to the outright regular-season conference title and top seed in this season’s tournament. Georgetown earned its trip to the championship game with Friday’s 84-82 win over No. 20 Notre Dame.
“It is extremely rewarding to have the opportunity to play for the tournament championship,” Thompson III said. “That’s something that’s special. Something that so few people get the opportunity to do is walk out on that floor tomorrow night and get a chance to play for the tournament championship.”
Third-seeded Pittsburgh, meanwhile, is playing in the championship game for the sixth time in seven years and second in Jamie Dixon’s first three seasons as coach. The Panthers, who beat No. 12 Louisville 65-59 Friday, won their only tournament title in 2003 under coach Ben Howland, now at UCLA.
“I definitely believe that Madison Square Garden, the Big East tournament, is destined for us,” said Antonio Graves, who scored 23 points against the Cardinals. “And we’ve been able to take advantage of treating it as our home court.”
Big East player of the year Jeff Green, who leads Georgetown with 14.0 points per game, scored a career-high 30 in Friday’s semifinal win and had the game-winning basket. Teammate Patrick Ewing Jr. matched his career high with 15 points off the bench in the same building where his father starred for the New York Knicks after four years at Georgetown under Thompson.
“He was effective out there I thought at both ends of the floor,” Thompson III said of Ewing. “We were playing well when he was in there, so we kept him in there.”
Ewing matched a season high with 28 minutes with his father in the front row.
“It was a good feeling,” Ewing, who transferred from Indiana after the 2004-05 season. “It’s a better feeling now that we won, but it was just like another game. He’s been to a lot of games this year, so it really wasn’t much different than any other game.”
Graves scored 10 of his points during Pittsburgh’s 20-2 run to start the second half, helping the Panthers erase an 11-point halftime deficit. Center Aaron Gray, who leads the team with 14.4 points and 9.8 rebounds per game, played in foul trouble for most of the game and finished with eight points and no boards.
“I was happy for the way we responded, especially in the second half,” Dixon said. “Being in an 11-point halftime deficit shows the character of our guys.”
Georgetown and Pitt split their two regular-season meetings, with each team winning at home. The Hoyas have won three of the last four matchups after dropping five straight in the series.