Pitt Goes On The Road Again

Road wins are tough to come by in the Big East, but the Pitt men's basketball team has been as successful as any Conference program in recent years and gets a chance to improve that mark in the next few days.

The 15th-ranked Panthers (15-2, 3-1), who have won 11 of their past 16 road games, visit Cincinnati (8-9, 3-2) Saturday at 4 p.m. and face St. John's Wednesday night at 7 at Madison Square Garden in New York City.

"Cincinnati's a team that we played just once last year, but we're pretty familiar with them because they have a lot of returning guys, five seniors,'' Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said. "I picked them as a team that was going to be better than people anticipated, but then they had a guy out early in the year.

"And they had some other injuries. Now, they're playing very well and very hard with a nice, experienced inside presence. So, it's a team that's playing very well and is playing its best basketball right now. It's going to be a challenge.''

Two road losses have come this season in tough venues at Dayton and Villanova, and Pittsburgh had three road losses this past regular season at Wisconsin, Georgetown and Marquette with a neutral-court loss to Oklahoma State.

"We've had it over the years, the success on the road, even when we didn't play a lot of non-conference road games we still had a good record in the conference on the road. And now, we seem to play more than most and tougher games than most on the road. And we've continued to have a good road record.

"I don't know what the reasons are, but I think you've got to defend hard on the road, and you've got to rebound, because often times the shooting and you're not going to get to the free-throw line that much. So, those things aren't going to be there as much on the road, but if you defend and rebound that gives you a good chance to beat a team at their place.''

Georgetown actually leads the Big East with two road wins. Cincinnati has a win at Louisville and beat Villanova and Syracuse at home. The Bearcats also have road losses to Notre Dame and St. John's.

"I think the Big East has prided itself on being able to win on the road, but ... we'll see what happens as the season goes on,'' Dixon said. "It usually all evens out in the long run, but for the short term there are some anomalies. I just think the Big East has had maybe more success than some other Conferences, but this one won't be easy for us against Cincinnati by any means.''

The Bearcats are led in scoring by Deonta Vaughn with 16.9 points per game, nearly double his teammates output, including 40 percent shooting from 3-point range. Vaughn, Cincinnati's point guard, also leads with more than four assists and three rebounds per game. Dixon said that Pitt seniors Ronald Ramon and Keith Benjamin will have the task of guarding Vaughn.

John Williamson and Adam Hrycaniuk are the other starters who haven't missed a game. Williamson averages 9.9 points and 6.5 rebounds per game, while Hrycaniuk has 8.3 points and 5.4 boards per contest. Marvin Gentry, Rashad Bishop and Jamual Warren are other key players, but Dixon noted that since Warren has returned from an injury Vaughn's game has picked up.

In any event, Vaughn is the type of player who usually gives Pitt fits, a sharp-shooting, athletic guard.

"I expect it to be a tough game,'' Pitt redshirt freshman Gilbert Brown said. "You know how the Big East is, and Cincinnati seems to be a pretty tough team. They beat Louisville (early), and they beat a couple other teams. So, I think they're having a good season, and I expect them to give us a real good game.

"And it's always tough to win on the road, but it's definitely tough in the Big East. Any team can beat any other one, at home and on the road, so you've got to be prepared all the time. And we'll definitely be up for a big game.''

Pitt doesn't return home until facing Rutgers Jan. 26 at 6 p.m.

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