7:00 PM ET, December 30, 2003
Petersen Events Center, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Jamie Dixon knew he was inheriting a deep team when he replaced Ben Howland as Pitt's coach. Thanks to Mark McCaroll's sudden emergence, the Panthers might be even deeper than Dixon thought.McCarroll, a barely used reserve when the season started, scored a career-high 26 points and Pittsburgh (No. 16 ESPN/USA Today, No. 15 AP) shrugged off leading scorer Carl Krauser's absence due to injury to beat Georgia 76-55 Tuesday night."I was pretty into this game," McCarroll said. "They beat us last year we were No. 2 and could have been No. 1. We're undefeated now and didn't want to lose that."Apparently, neither did Julius Page, who had his worst game of the season a year ago with only two points in Georgia's 79-67 upset of Pitt. Page shifted from shooting guard to point guard to replace Krauser and had 18 points, eight assists and a team-high eight rebounds."We just have so many weapons, it feels good not to miss a beat with Carl out and Big East play coming up soon," Page said.Krauser, who leads Pitt with a 15.6 average, sat out his second straight game with a groin injury. He is out indefinitely.Even without their floor leader, the Panthers (13-0) had little trouble in extending the school's best start since the 1927-28 team went 21-0 during Pitt's only unbeaten season.Despite Jonas Hayes' 16 points, Georgia shot only 35.4 percent in becoming the eighth of Pitt's 13 opponents to score 55 or fewer points.Page, normally assigned to an opponent's best offensive player, helped limit Georgia's leading scorer, Rashad Wright, to 10 points -- five below his average. Georgia (7-3) dropped to 0-2 on the road after losing earlier to No. 16 Gonzaga 82-76."Let's face it, they are one of the premier programs in country right now and they've developed a championship approach," Georgia coach Dennis Felton said. "They understand the value of stopping people and making it difficult on you to score."McCarroll, who has all three of his career double-figure scoring efforts in Pitt's last four games, came off the bench to get Pitt going after Georgia opened a 10-4 lead.Quickly hitting a 3-pointer from the left wing, McCarroll scored seven of Pitt's next nine points. He later keyed a 13-2 Pitt run that made it 39-24 at halftime with two free throws, a dunk and another 3-pointer from the wing."We knew he was capable of doing two things," Felton said. "If you don't block him out, he'll play above the rim, and he can shoot faceup jump shots. We were soft defensively and gave him those looks, and he did precisely what the scouting report said he could do."McCarroll missed only two shots, going 11-of-12 from the field and 2-of-3 from the free throw line, in the highest-scoring game by a Pitt player this season."I'm getting more minutes and getting comfortable in my (playing) time," McConnell said. "Last year, I was in and out, and I never got the feel of the game."Georgia tried to rally by starting the second half with an 8-2 run that cut it to 41-32. But Jaron Brown scored off his own steal and McCarroll dunked off Page's pass as Pitt answered with an 8-2 run, then coasted the rest of the way."We talked about how hard we had to play to score," Felton said. "Pitt got tougher and more consistent about that they do, and we got soft."McCarroll had only 19 points in Pitt's first six games, but began playing more when starting forward Chevon Troutman injured his groin earlier this month.McCarroll had his first career double-figure game with 14 points against Murray State on Dec. 20, then followed that with 13 points two nights later against Florida State.Pitt needs only a victory Saturday against William & Mary to sweep its 14-game non-conference schedule. Pitt has never gone unbeaten against non-conference teams over a full season.