Tyrell Biggs had played all three front-court positions since he arrived at Pittsburgh (17-4, 5-3), but his versatility has never been more necessary until this season. Biggs has been the primary backup at center, even though he's 6-foot-8 and liked to play away from the rim more often than not.
But this season, Biggs has not been afraid to bang underneath when he's had the opportunity. And that was never more evident than in Pitt's big win against Villanova Wednesday night at the Petersen Events Center.
"Tyrell, I thought he had more rebounds, but he seemed to have a lot around the basket,'' Dixon said. "He was around the ball, and he played good defense.
"He gave us some good minutes with 14 points, and he knocked down the free throws. And he's a guy that we need. I keep thinking we can get more out of him, but he's working hard and had a very good game. And he deserved it.''
Biggs played 26 minutes against the Wildcats and tallied 14 points, four rebounds and one blocked shot, along with playing stifling defense. He played xx minutes at center, while Blair was on the bench. Freshman Gary McGhee also played three minutes for Blair at the five spot. Biggs also takes over at the three, small forward, for redshirt freshman Gilbert Brown. And he slides over to the four when junior power forward Sam Young needs a blow as well.
Due to his versatility, it can be argued that Biggs is as valuable to the Panthers as any starter. Just ask one of those five players.
"Absolutely, Tyrell can play all the forward spots,'' Young said. "He can shoot from the outside and hit the boards. He's a very valuable part of this team.''
Biggs averages about seven points and three rebounds per game this season, more than double his contribution combined during his first two years at Pitt. And while his choice of outside shots is occasionally questioned, Biggs knows what he needs to do to make a difference for the Panthers.
"We all just had to step up, and the Coach got us focused against Villanova,'' Biggs said. "We knew what we had to do, and we went out and executed our game plan. (Dixon) just was able to get us motivated to go out and perform to the best of our abilities. All we needed to do was to go out and do it.''
Defense and rebounding were two areas that Pitt fell short against Rutgers, but they improved a great deal against the Wildcats.
"We knew we had to rebound, because we didn't do that very well the last time, and we did a great job of that against Villanova,'' Blair said. "We out-rebounded them pretty bad, it was a big number, and that was a big advantage for us.
"We all hit the boards and played solid defense, so it was a team effort. And we'll need to do that, both those things, to be successful in the Big East. If we can do that, we'll win most of our games in the Conference. That's the key.
"The games certainly are more physical in the Big East, but I don't think those games are called any different,'' Blair added. "And I don't mind it. That's why I came here, for the physical play. I don't shy away from that, and it doesn't faze me. It's all part of playing in the Big East, and I love it.''
The Panthers have taken a big step since the first time they played at Villanova, and they're a different team as they approach the second part of the Big East schedule Saturday at Connecticut.
"We've got to out-rebound people, and it'll be a big challenge against Connecticut,'' Dixon said. "But that's what we have to do. We pride ourselves on that, and we were able to do it tonight. It's something, when we out-rebound people, we tend to have things go the right way tonight.
"I know we're better now than the first time we played Villanova, and I think our four freshmen are better players. That's what I anticipated. They're playing better defense, and Keith and Ronald are playing better with more minutes. So, we're a better team, and we have continued to improve.
"The four freshmen have had to step up,'' Dixon added. "I keep telling them they need to defend better, but ... they're all learning and improving and trying to carry it over, but that's what we needed. We've only got eight, so that's half the team right there. And if we can start with those guys, we'll be all right. So, we just need continued improvement from them.''
After the game at UConn, Pitt has home games with West Virginia (Feb. 7) and Providence (Feb. 12).
Biggs Gives Pitt Bench Support
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