Woodall's Return Can't Help Pitt Shake Slide

Jamie Dixon says Travon Woodall appears healthy once again, but it may take some time for him to fully get re-established with everything.

Even the return of their heart and soul couldn't straighten out the Pitt Panthers.

Point guard Tray Woodall returned to the starting lineup in a setting primed for heroics. ESPN "Game Day" was in town for a prime time show, Dick Vitale and Erin Andrews on the screen, a full house ... and nothing.

Woodall had missed 11 of the last 12 games with an abdominal pull that left him unable to help as the Panthers dropped seven in a row. Now he was returning to face a struggling Louisville team that was in need of help of its own and got it from Kyle Kuric, who had missed a couple of games himself.

Expectations were high.

"I have been waiting for him all year," sophomore F Lamar Patterson said. "He's our captain. He moves the ball around. He's our leader out there and we really need him."

Woodall's return may work out in the future, but the immediate returns were more of the same -- 0-of-5 shooting, two assists and three turnovers in 21 minutes.

"I was ready to play," Woodall told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "My injury is not an excuse. I'm back. I'm cleared to play. I didn't have it today."

And so the frustration continues for the Big East regular-season defending champions as a first-half lead evaporated.

"It's been the story of the whole season, honestly," Pitt guard Ashton Gibbs said. "I mean, we have had leads in almost every game during this losing streak. It's something we have to maintain."

NOTES, QUOTES
--The Panthers' eight-game losing streak is the school's longest since the 1993-94 season. The school's 0-7 start in the Big East is the worst it has ever had to endure.

--Pitt has played Syracuse three straight years while still unbeaten. The Panthers had ended the Orangemen's unbeaten dreams in the two previous years before they battered a struggling Pitt team this season.

BY THE NUMBERS: 2-14 -- Pitt's all-time record against No. 1 teams in the nation after losing to Syracuse while it was unbeaten and ranked No. 1.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Our players are battling. They are playing hard. They are doing everything they can to become better, but we're just not getting it done." -- Pitt Coach Jamie Dixon on his team, which has lost eight in a row and is off to a 0-7 start in the Big East.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

THIS WEEK'S GAMES:
--vs. Providence, Jan. 25
KEY MATCHUPS: This game represents one of Pitt's best shots at breaking its losing streak. To begin with, the game is at home, which once almost guaranteed a victory but now has been the site of five losses this season. The Friars have won only once in the Big East this season and have lost six of their last seven. G Vincent Council is the leading scorer for the Friars, but Bryce Council is coming off a huge 26-point effort against Marquette.

--vs. Georgetown, Jan. 28
KEY MATCHUPS: The nationally-ranked Hoyas have not been playing their best lately and were lucky to come away with a victory against Rutgers, making only 12 field goals, matching the lowest total made by any winning team this year. That victory, made possible by Otto Porter's late run of six straight points, saved second place in the Big East for Georgetown and was the Hoyas' third straight victory against lower-level conference teams.

FUTURES MARKET: Syracuse brought out the best in Pitt sophomore G Cameron Wright, who turned in his best performance since November against the nation's then-No. 1 team. Wright scored 10 points with a career-high seven rebounds, bettering his previous high in rebounding of three. He hit 4-of-6 shots in the game, including his first 3-pointer since Nov. 27. "He played well," Coach Jamie Dixon said. "We've been looking to get some more production out of him, and it was good to see." However, Wright failed to build on that, not scoring in eight minutes of playing time against Louisville.

PLAYER NOTES
--PG Tray Woodall, who had missed 11 of the prior 12 games with an abdominal tear, started against Louisville. The junior finished 0-for-5 from the field with no points. He had two assists and three turnovers in 21 minutes.

--Freshman G Isaiah Epps made his first career start against Marquette. After playing 26 minutes in that game, he has played only nine minutes in the next two.

--Senior F Nasir Robinson added four more turnovers to his total against Louisville and leads the turnover-prone Panthers with 50 for the season. He had 52 all of last year and 51 all the previous season, playing about 150 and 250 more minutes each of the last two seasons.


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