Pitt - Duquesne Preview

The City Game: The great rivalry continues tonight between cross town rivals. Head Coach Jamie Dixon and his second ranked Panthers (8-0) are set to take on the Duquesne Dukes (2-4) tonight at 9 P.M. at the Peterson Events Center. PantherDigest.com Senior Writer Dale Grdnic previews the game. Read on for details.

PITTSBURGH -- Even though the University of Pittsburgh men's basketball team is ranked second in both national polls, fourth-year Pitt head coach Jamie Dixon believes that the team could perform much better.

The Panthers (8-0) get a chance to hone their skills against Duquesne in the annual City Game tonight at 9 at the Petersen Events Center.

"I do think we've played well in all of our games, and it's been against some pretty good competition,'' Dixon said. "The teams that we've played have been picked to do well in their conferences. ... And I think that we've improved and have taken things from one game to another.

"But we're not as good as we need to be, and we're certainly not as good as we want to be. So, we're looking for improvement. It's as simple as that. But these guys want to be better, so they're working hard in practice to improve every day. And that's where we're at right now.''

If the undermanned Dukes don't provide a stiff test, Pitt goes on the road for more at Buffalo Saturday night. And if that doesn't cut it, the toughest test this season comes Dec. 16 at No. 11 Wisconsin.

"I think we're playing pretty well,'' Dixon said. "Anybody that's passing the ball and shooting the ball as well as we are and sharing the ball, I think anybody would be happy about that. But I know we've got a long way to go, and I understand that. And I think (the players) understand that.

"Defensively, we can get better, but that's expected now. So, there's a lot to work on, but they've taken what we've worked on from game to game. ... And that's a great sign that they're not satisfied where they're at right now. That's what is most gratifying about this group.''

Pitt junior guard Keith Benjamin isn't looking ahead to the highly ranked Badgers, however, because that could cause some problems.

"We look at every game as a test for us,'' Benjamin said. "Every game is different, and we have to get up for every game. We don't want to be the team that loses when we have a chance to be No. 1, so it's great for everyone. And we're going to keep working hard to reach that goal.

"I'd like to think that we can beat anybody. The top teams seem to be pretty balanced, but we have the most veterans here. They have a lot of freshmen playing all around the country, so I think that's an advantage for us if we eventually get to play them. But we'll be ready no matter what.''

Sophomore point guard Levance Fields agreed that the Panthers must only be concerned with how well they play, and that should be good enough no matter which team is next on the schedule.

"We have eight returning players back from last year that played major minutes, so this is a veteran team,'' Fields said. "Everybody knows what we're supposed to do. Our schedule is tougher, but things have been going pretty well for us because we're an experienced team.

"We know guys on the other teams are going to give us their best because they want to beat us. Beating us would make any team's season, but that's a good thing. It keeps us humble and let's us know that we can't come out flat or we're going to get blown out.''

That's something junior point guard Ronald Ramon believes won't happen. Letdowns are not possible with this experienced group.

"This is a special group of guys,'' Ramon said. "We don't have any selfish players. ... So, the chemistry we have makes us work well together. We like playing with each other and don't mind getting someone else the ball so they can succeed. As long as it benefits the team, we'll do it.

"We know that we're playing better teams, too, so that makes it feel a little better this year. We look forward to the rest of this season and know that it will be challenging, but we just have to keep focused and we'll be fine. I'm sure every player on this team is aware of that.''

If not, upset-minded Duquesne could get its wish tonight.

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