It's about time

If Ben Howland created a winning legacy at Pittsburgh that Jamie Dixon has deftly nourished, Howland also created a style of winning that has come to haunt this team during tournament time.

A typical Panthers' win goes something like this: Slow first 10 minutes, huge run to end of the half, hold off opponent mini-run in first 5 minutes of second half, methodically apply the submission hold.

The losses over the last few years have come from an inability of the Panthers to take advantage of the run to end the first half.

Case in point: Last season, the Panthers led by double digits at both Notre Dame and Syracuse, and against Marquette in the NCAA tournament, but were unable to hang on.

However, the Panthers, more and more this season, are starting to look like a team with the intent of putting away opponents at the right time during a game rather than building a lead and hanging on for dear life. Recent wins over Syracuse and St. John's are prime examples.

But it was that win on the road at Syracuse in such dominating fashion that has turned the eyes of even Pitt's harshest critics. They not only put down a "sleeper-hold" they also wacked the Orangemen with a chair and then "superplexed" them off of the turnbuckle.

The Orangemen were suffocated against a relentless Panther approach, a strangling of the wills. This was not just another team, this was the National Champion Syracuse Orangeman who submitted to the will of the Blue & Gold. And this was also in the Carrier Dome.

Thunderous dunks and sweet Carl Krauser passes aside, this team for too long this season continued to win in the same fashion as past squads. In some ways a blessing, that fashion did have a significant flaw - it was susceptible to teams with just as much mental fortitude.

Still, the Panthers must look at the recent win against St. John's not as a laugher, but of a disciplined, hard-earned win. It's just as difficult for a team to keep a larger lead as it is for a team to come back from a large lead.

For the Panthers to have notions of a Cinderella run to the national title, they must be able to put lesser opponents away early. If they can't do that, they will be prime targets for another earlier-than-expected tournament exit.


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