Game Time

Pitt set to tip off with St. John's at approximately 2 pm in the 12/13 game of the Big East Tournament.

Under Jamie Dixon, Pitt has built a strong, proud program and it is looking to find a way to erase the memory of what has been a dismal season, finishing 16-15 and 5-13 in the Big East.

When you are used to success, it's harder to accept failure, and playing UConn in the final regular-season game may have been a reminder to Pitt of what is out there, even though it dropped that game.

Last year, UConn went into the Big East Tournament without a bye, yet ran the table and won the Big East title, then did the same in the NCAA Tournament to win the national championship.

The Panthers can think, if the Huskies could do it, why not us?

"I just believe we are going to play our best basketball of the year," he said, after losing to UConn. "I just believe it's going to happen. I believed it was going to happen today, but we didn't do it for 40 minutes."

Whether it happens doesn't seem to make that much difference, as long as they play well.

Right now, Dixon is looking at a minor tournament bid and would like to push his team forward to play well there to have something to carry over into next year.

He sees good things happening despite not having good results, even in that last UConn game.

"For a stretch there, we were as good as we've been all year long," Dixon said. "We did it for a good amount of time, but not quite long enough."

NOTES, QUOTES
--For the first time since the 1999-2000 season, Pitt has suffered through a pair of five-game losing streaks and heads into the Big East Tournament with six losses in its last seven games.

--By beating St. John's in the regular season's next-to-last game, the Panthers avoided having the worst Big East record in school history. There was no celebration.

BY THE NUMBERS: 15 -- After battling it out in games with national implications for so many seasons, Pittsburgh met Connecticut as unranked foes for the first time in nearly 15 years. The previous time neither team was ranked was March 5, 1997.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "It's real tough on me, how the season has been going. But I'm not giving up. My teammates aren't giving up. We're going to keep fighting. We know this season hasn't been good for us, but we're going to keep fighting. If we keep fighting, good things will happen." -- Senior F Nasir Robinson, who has played despite knee problems that required weekly draining all year.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

THIS WEEK'S GAMES:
vs. St. John's, Big East Tournament, March 6

KEY MATCHUPS: Pitt comes into the Big East Tournament as the No. 13 seed, its lowest seed ever, and faces No. 12 St. John's. It is the second meeting between the teams in six days. The Panthers won that game to end a five-game losing streak, Ashton Gibbs finding his shooting stroke to score 19 points.

Pitt has not done well as a top-four seed over the last three years, each time losing its first game of the tournament after a double-bye. A victory would put the Panthers up against No. 5 seed South Florida, a team that won both meetings with Pitt this year.

FUTURES MARKET: Sophomore F J.J. Moore took a while to get himself together but he has become a key member of the Pitt team, reaching double-figures in scoring in his last five games. He did have a few mistakes late in the UConn game, including being hit was key charging call, but his overall game was why Pitt was around at the end. "I thought J.J. played very well," coach Jamie Dixon said. "He's getting better and better getting to the basket and getting to the foul line. I really liked how we moved the ball down the stretch."

PLAYER NOTES
--With the scholarship that came open when F/C Khem Birch transferred, Pitt signed high school senior SG Chris Jones from Teaneck, N.J., to the 2012 recruiting class. He joins PG James Robinson and C Steve Adams as recruits.

--Senior G Ashton Gibbs closed the year out in a terrible shooting slump. His last five games saw him make just 17 of 52 shots and just six of his last 32 3-point tries over the last seven games. He is shooting just 39.2 from the field and 33.8 from 3 this year as compared to 46.8 and 49.0 percent last year.


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