GETTING INSIDE Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon once received a verbal commitment from Herb Pope. Now he has to figure out a game plan to defend him.
Pope and the Seton Hall Pirates play host to No. 9 Pittsburgh Sunday afternoon at 2 at the Prudential Center.
Pope, a 6-foot-8 forward, is one of only two players in the Big East averaging a double-double. Before Thursday's game against Louisville, Pope was averaging 12.4 points and a league-leading 11.8 rebounds per game.
Pope, one of the most sought-after recruits from Western Pennsylvania in recent history, said he would attend Pitt in March 2005 when he was a sophomore in high school, but he later reopened his recruitment. He played one season at New Mexico State before transferring to Seton Hall last season.
It will be interesting to see how Pope does against Pitt. The Panthers have had their troubles defending good post players. Louisville's Samardo Samuels scored 25 points on 12-for-20 shooting in a game last week.
This is the first of two meetings between the Panthers and the Pirates. Seton Hall, which has lost its past three to Pitt, visits the Panthers on Feb. 6.
GEORGETOWN 74, PITT 66: Chris Wright scored 27 points and the Hoyas shot 70 percent (7 for 10) from 3-point range to hand the Panthers their first Big East loss this season and snap a 31-game home winning streak.
It was an uncharacteristically poor defensive effort from the Panthers, who allowed the Hoyas to shoot 46 percent from the field. Austin Freeman and Greg Monroe added 13 points and Julian Vaughn had 11.
Gilbert Brown led Pitt with 20 points off the bench. The Panthers shot a respectable 45.6 percent from the field, but they were only 4-for-18 from 3-point range.
--Ashton Gibbs struggled for the second game in a row. He was 3-for-16 from the field and finished with eight points against Georgetown after going 4-for-12 against Louisville. He failed to reach double figures for the first time since a Nov. 24 loss against No. 1 Texas.
--Gilbert Brown was 8 for 9 from the field and notched a career high with 20 points against the Hoyas. It was a redeeming performance for Brown, who was held without a point in the previous game against Louisville.
--One game after scoring a career-high 26 points, sophomore forward Nasir Robinson could only manage four points against the Hoyas before fouling out.
ON THE SPOT: Pitt's defense, ranked first in the conference in points allowed, is beginning to show some holes. The past three opponents have shot 46 percent or better from the field.
The two opponents have hurt the Panthers from 3-point range. Georgetown was 7 for 10 from behind the arc and Louisville was 9 for 25 from long distance.
Defense will be the focus for the Panthers as they prepare for their next game at Seton Hall.
"I really thought our defense would continue to improve and we would take a step to becoming a great defensive team,'' Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said. "I don't feel like we're a great defensive team. We're not there yet.''
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I don't think we're a target. I think there are still some people who doubt us. We just need to keep on playing hard in practice and taking it into the game.'' -- Pitt guard Ashton Gibbs, after the victory over Louisville.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
SEASON RECAP: The Panthers continue to roll through the Big East in a season in which they were expected to be a non-contender, knocking off Connecticut and Louisville to improve its record to 5-0. Pitt has risen into the Top 20 in the polls, sits atop the conference and is unbeaten since Gilbert Brown and Jermaine Dixon returned to the rotation six games ago.
PLAYER ROTATION: Usual Starters -- F Nasir Robinson, C Gary McGhee, G Bradley Wanamaker, G Ashton Gibbs, G Jermaine Dixon. Key Subs -- G-F Gilbert Brown, F Dante Taylor, G Travon Woodall.
Pittsburgh 74, Cincinnati 71
Pittsburgh 67, Connecticut 57
Pittsburgh 82, Louisville 77 (OT)
Georgetown 74, Pittsburgh 66
at Seton Hall, Sunday
vs. St. John's, Thursday, Jan. 28
at South Florida, Saturday, Jan. 31
at West Virginia, Wednesday, Feb. 3
IN FOCUS: The Panthers will be playing a desperate Seton Hall team that needs a win to get back into the Big East and NCAA Tournament race. A key for Pitt will be neutralizing Herb Pope, which for many Seton Hall opponents has meant taking the ball right at him and getting the sophomore in foul trouble. When he's out of commission, the Pirates are a much less dangerous team inside, though either way the deep Seton Hall backcourt will pressure the Pitt guards and prove to be a challenge on the perimeter.
--F Nasir Robinson has been a forgotten man much of the season even though he's a starter, as the sophomore usually sheds the spotlight in favor of one of the more offensive-minded starters or his backup Gilbert Brown. But Robinson didn't just lead his team in scoring against Louisville -- his 26 points marked the most any Panther player has scored all season.
--G/F Gilbert Brown was a surprising non-factor against the Cardinals on offense. He went scoreless for the first time since March 7 of last season, when he failed to score in 18 minutes against Connecticut.
--G Brad Wanamaker tied his career high with a 20-point day against Louisville, and did most of his damage at the free throw line. He went 11 of 12 from the stripe, including two big makes with less than two seconds to play in regulation that forced overtime.
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