Panthers Ready For West Virginia

Just when it seemed like the Panthers were in position to challenge for the Big East regular-season title, a loss leaves Pitt right back in the pack, fighting just to get a first-round bye in the league tournament.

Losing 80-72 to Villanova on the road isn't a tremendous shock, since the Wildcats seem likely to join the Panthers in the NCAA Tournament. But as Chevon Troutman goes, so go the Panthers. Troutman was limited to 31 minutes because of foul trouble, scoring just nine points and pulling down four boards. Reserve Mark McCarroll was unable to make up the production, with two points and two boards in his nine minutes.

Also, the Panthers were again unable to score in a hurry via the outside shot. Pitt made just four three-pointers, and attempted just 13 of the long-range attempts.

Most disappointing, however, was the defense. What everyone took for granted last season has been a lot less consistent this time around. The Panthers allowed Villanova to shoot 47 percent from the field, and 50 percent from the three-point line. Its offense put up more than enough points to secure a victory with the defense shown by previous years' teams, but it wasn't enough for this squad. As the NCAA Tournament approaches, it's the defense that may require the most attention from coach Jamie Dixon.

Team Notes:

Pittsburgh has now allowed three of its last five opponents to hit 13 or more three-pointers. Villanova made 13-of-26 from long range. Notre Dame made 14 of 29, and West Virginia made 13 of 40.

Aaron Gray provided a lift off the bench against Villanova, The backup center made seven of his eight shots and finished with 15 points.

Lineup: Point guard Carl Krauser, shooting guard Antonio Graves, center Chris Taft, forward Levon Kendall, forward Chevon Troutman.

Upcoming Games: vs. West Virginia, Feb. 23; vs. Connecticut, Feb. 26

Inside West Virginia: West Virginia killed the Panthers from the three-point line in the second half of the teams' first meeting this season, so Pitt's going to need to spend a lot of time shoring up its perimeter defense, which has been miserable lately. In the victory over Connecticut, Pitt simply played a much more physical game than the Huskies, with Chevon Troutman having his way on the inside. Josh Boone will be looking for redemption in that one, after being limited to 13 minutes in the first meeting because of foul trouble.

Roster Report: Carl Krauser was critical of the officials following the 80-72 loss to Villanova. He scored 16 points, but was just 3-of-10 from the field. He was also limited to two assists while turning the ball over six times.

Chevon Troutman has been a rock for the Panthers for much of the year, but struggled mightily against Villanova. The senior forward finished with nine points and five rebounds.

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