Pitt Needs Win Against Louisville

The Pitt men's basketball team is losing ground fast in the Big East Conference, but the Panthers have a chance to top the plummet against 18th-ranked Louisville today at noon at the Petersen Events Center.

Pittsburgh (19-7, 7-6) is seventh in the Big East after two straight losses, while the Cardinals (21-6, 11-3) are tied for the top spot with Georgetown.

"We've got to get a win to salvage this season,'' senior guard Keith Benjamin said. "(And) it comes down to the seniors. It's up to me and Ronald (Ramon). We have the responsibility to show these guys how to win. Right now we're just not doing a great job. So, this is a challenge for us.''

And against Louisville, it won't be a small task. In just six days, the Panthers suffered their two biggest road losses in five seasons with Jamie Dixon as the head coach. None of their previous losses away from the Pete were by double figures. Pitt has lost three straight just once under Dixon.

Coach Rick Pitino and the Cardinals are led by junior forward Terrence Williams with 11.5 points, 7.7 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game. Sophomore guard Jerry Smith is next with 11 points per game, while senior center David Padgett averages 10.6 points and 4.6 rebounds per contest.

Louisville is heavy with underclassmen, as sophomore forward Earl Clark has 10.6 points and a team-best 8.2 rebounds per game. And sophomore forward Derrick Caracter is at nine points and 5.4 rebounds. Sophomore guard Edgar Sosa and junior guard Andre McGee are other top players, along with senior forward Juan Palacios.

The Panthers have several strong contributors among their top players, but Benjamin believes the seniors -- he and Ramon -- need to take it up a notch.

"It's vocal leadership, it's doing the right things,'' Benjamin said. "I have to make the right plays on the court, so everyone else sees that. I'm disappointed in myself. It beats me up that I've been here for four years and haven't take a charge. Those are the things we need to do better. We have to take charges. We need to get rebounds, box out, make the smart pass.

"When we do that, we win. I'm looking forward doing everything that will help us win. Scoring those points hasn't helped us, so I'm going to have to do other things. I have to get rebounds, take charges. That's what I'm going to do. We talk so much about how we don't want to go out like the rest of the (previous) senior classes. Right now, the other senior classes are up on us.

"They led Pitt better,'' Benjamin added. "So, me and Ron have to get something done. We have to get through to these guys. And we're going to. We have to save the season. We're not going to let it go down. ... We're playing a very hot team, a very tough team in Louisville. We're in the Pete. We want everyone in Pittsburgh to not give up and show up ready to rock the building.''

Even though Pitt fell out of the top-25 rankings this past week, an RPI of 21 should be sufficient for the NCAA Tournament committee with three more wins, either in the five remaining regular-season games or the Big East Tournament. And since 1999, every Big East team with an RPI better than 40 made the NCAA field.

After Louisville, which beat Pitt by 13 last season at the Petersen Events Center, the Panthers play host to Cincinnati, which beat them, 62-59, five weeks ago. Then, Pitt makes road trips to Syracuse and West Virginia. Those two programs need big wins to enhance their NCAA standing.

Pitt ends the regular season with a home game against DePaul.

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