Pitt-Seton Hall Preview

Buoyed by a senior class playing its final home game and a boisterous sellout crowd, Providence College stormed to a huge lead and thwarted a furious second-half rally to knock off No. 1 Pitt Tuesday night.

Pittsburgh (25-3, 12-3) should face the same situation when it plays Seton Hall (15-12, 6-9) today at 8:30 p.m. at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J. The game will be televised by ESPN-ESPN 360 on a regional basis as FSN locally.

"Coming from New Jersey, I've been seeing them play for a long time, since I was younger,'' Pitt freshman guard Ashton Gibbs said. "We know they'll come out and play us hard, and Coach (Bobby) Gonzalez is an energized guy, so he's going to have those guys ready.''

Pitt coach Jamie Dixon also should have the Panthers ready to go after the upset loss at Providence. Seton Hall isn't as talented as the Friars, but Dixon isn't concerned about that. He worked on his team's improvement during the practice time between the Providence loss and this game.

"It was our third loss, and I think we've done well after our other losses,'' Dixon said. "There are no acceptable losses. That's not part of our program. If you're mediocre, you can talk about the wins, but when you're successful they talk about the losses. So, it's a good opportunity for us to play again Saturday.

"We've learned from the loss, and we've moved on. We're still No. 1 in RPI, I just checked that, so through it all there's 339 other teams who would rather be in our seat than where they're at now. It's a long season, and you're only as good as your next game. And our next game is Saturday at Seton Hall.''

The Panthers have found it to be much more difficult to hold the No. 1 ranking than it is to get there. That's because top teams have been falling like dominos this season. Pitt appears to be better as the hunter, rather than the hunted.

"You could say it's easier to be the underdog, instead of being No. 1, but I think that as long as we play our game we can compete with anybody,'' Gibbs said. "That goes for any team. ... (So), we just have to focus from the beginning. We should have known that (Providence) was going to come out so strong.

"They had those seniors and some good players, and they played very well as a team. It was a good atmosphere for them, and they just go the best of us. The same way with Seton Hall. They're going to come out hard and take it to us right away, so we have to be ready for anything.''

Actually, the Pirates better be ready for Gibbs and Co. Not the Panthers, but the stellar freshman's family and friends. Gibbs had his best game at Pitt in the last contest, and his family and friends will number about 125 in attendance for the Seton Hall game.

"My mom and dad have a PAL (Police Athletic League) team coming to the game, and they're bringing a lot of kids from our area to the game,'' Gibbs said. "It's a big fundraiser for them, so they'll have a lot of people there. And a big Pitt win wouldn't hurt at all. This is their fundraiser for the year, so they're bringing in as many people as they can.''

Seton Hall has sold out the game for Pitt, and there will be friends and family there for Pitt freshman redshirt Travon Woodall and coach Brandin Knight as well. While those fans will be cheering for the Panthers, the remaining ones in attendance likely will be harassing Pitt sophomore center DeJuan Blair.

DeJuan Blair "We just have to worry about the future,'' Blair said. "We can put the loss behind us. We just have to keep playing and hope and wish other teams lose and we keep winning. Then, we'll see how it is at the end. Providence caught us off-guard, but we just weren't Pitt that day. And it showed.

"The outcome showed, so we just have to come in and take every game like it's our last. And if we do that, then we'll be good. It was a huge wake-up call, and we don't want to let anymore slip away from us. We just have to try to forget that game, and defense was our focus in practice (Thursday).

"Coach talks about how a team can hit the wall, but he's going to keep us from doing that,'' Blair added. "So, we just have to keep playing Pitt ball, because that's not what we played the other day at Providence. So, we just have to stay focused and be the team that we are, and we'll be good.''

"We've been a good bounce-back team this year from our other two losses, so I expect us to bounce back in this next game as well. When you lose a game like that, the same thing can happen to you in the next game. So, we just have to come in there with hunger and play Pitt ball. And we'll be fine.''

Pitt and Seton Hall meet for the 48th time, and the Panthers hold a 28-19 advantage with eight wins in the last 11 games. In games played at Seton Hall, Pitt is 10-11. The Panthers are 26-18 against Seton Hall in Big East games.

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