And Coach Dixon has kept the Panthers on an even keel as well. During the seven-year Dixon reign, Pittsburgh (15-3, 5-1 in the Big East) rarely has lost more than two straight games and has lost as many as three in a row on just two occasions, during the 2004-05 (20-9) and 2007-08 (27-10) seasons.
The Panthers put that record to the test against Seton Hall (11-6, 2-4) today at 2 p.m. at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J. Pitt is coming off a loss to Georgetown Wednesday that snapped an eight-game winning streak. But the odds are in Pitt's favor to halt the one-game losing skein.
The Panthers never lost even two straight during the 2003-04 (31-5) and this past (30-5), Dixon's first and most recent season as Pitt's head coach, and they have dropped two straight games just six times during his era. And Pitt has played especially strong on the road in these situations for Dixon.
"I think it's preparation, consistency, getting our guys in a routine and sticking to it,'' Dixon said. "Those off-the-court things are important. I think rebounding and defending have to be part of your package to win on the road consistently. It's not easy. I think we probably have the best record on the road over the last eight years since we have the best record in the Conference.
"We think it's important to give our guys a routine and to stick to it. You want to have kids focused and know why we're there. We're there to take care of business and play our best basketball. There is no tougher place to play on the road than the Big East Conference. We try not to do things too much different, but we try to do things they're used to.''
Seton Hall is coming off an 80-77 win against Louisville Thursday night, as junior sharp-shooter Jeremy Hazell scored 25 points with four other Pirates reached double-figures. Hazel leads the team with 23 points per game.
Aliquippa, Pa. grad Herb Pope, a redshirt sophomore, averages a double-double with 12.3 points and 11-2 rebounds per game, while junior forward Jeff Robinson (9.6 points, six rebounds) and redshirt junior forward Robert Mitchell (9.1 points, 4.9 rebounds) are other top scorers.
Hope originally committed to Pitt as a sophomore with the Quips, but he signed with New Mexico State two years ago and stayed a season before transferring to Seton Hall before this past season that he sat out.
"The thing I remember most was those times visiting (Pope) in the hospital (after he got shot) wondering if he was going to play again,'' Dixon said. "That's what I remember the most. I'm glad he found his place and is playing again.
"I'm very happy for him. We've known him for a long time. He's a good rebounder. He's a good shot blocker, and I always thought he was a good passer. I'm rooting for him to do well.''
In the series, Pitt has recorded three consecutive victories and nine of the past 12 matchups. This game is the first of two Pitt-Seton Hall matchups, as the Pirates make the trip to the Petersen Events Center Feb. 6.
"We know how good they are,'' Dixon said. "Their record does not indicate who they played or how good they are. We emphasized rebounding (after the loss). We didn't do that the last game. Defending, improving defensively. Last game we got hurt with the 3s. They got us the last game.
"(Seton Hall), they shoot quick. The main thing is that you take good shots on the offensive end. That's something we addressed. That's something we've done well, take good shots. You have to play good on offense to limit their defensive transition. If you're good on offense, I believe it helps your defense.''
One player who has worked hard to improve in all those areas is redshirt freshman point guard Travon Woodall. In recent Big East games, Woodall's minutes and production have extensively decreased. This is an opportunity for the Jersey City, N.J. native (St. Anthony's High School) to get back on track.
The second-year player basically is going home.
"I'm looking forward to playing in front of my family for the first time,'' Woodall said, referring to his sitting out during a medical redshirt last season. "I'm just getting used to playing less. We want to get our team chemistry back to what we need it to be. In some cases, I try too hard to be overly aggressive.
"I'm just trying to make the most of my time out there. ... This group, we all like each other. We build chemistry off the court, and that helps on the court. We have that feeling that we have to have our brother's back on the court, (so) we're all trying to stick together.''
And that's what keeps Pitt on an even keel whether it wins or loses a game.
Pitt-Seton Hall Preview
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