GETTING INSIDE The Panthers have hit the first real bumpy portion of what had been a surprisingly comfortable road through the early part of the 2009-10 season.
Pittsburgh is in the midst of its first two-game losing streak since the 2007-08 season, and its offense is suddenly struggling. It came up with 66 points in a loss to Georgetown, and 61 on Sunday against Seton Hall.
The poor showing against Georgetown is understandable. After all, the Hoyas are always among the top defensive teams in the country. But Seton Hall entered the game allowing nearly 80 points a game in Big East play, and the only reason the Panthers managed to break the 60-point barrier was because of a 21-24 day at the free throw line.
One concern has to be that Ashton Gibbs is cooling down. The sophomore guard led the team with 23 points against the Pirates, but that was mostly because he made all 14 of his free throw attempts. From the field, he went 4-of-15 overall and 1-of-7 from 3-point range, and he turned the ball over three times without an assist. Over his last three games, he's 11-of-43 from the field.
It's not all Gibbs.
Nobody shot the ball well against the Pirates, and certainly not from the outside considering the team went 4-17 from 3-point range. But this was a game that the Panthers could have won had they shot the ball better and played a little less sloppy on offense, and that missed opportunity cost the team a share of second place and dropped it to 5-2 in the conference entering the week.
--On a day when it struggled with turnovers and shot the ball poorly from the field, Pitt gave itself a chance against Seton Hall with a stellar performance from the free throw line. The Panthers made 21 of the team's 24 attempts, with Ashton Gibbs going 14-of-14.
--The Panthers' loss to Seton Hall was the team's first on the road this season. Pittsburgh entered the day with a 4-0 record away from home, having won at Duquesne, Syracuse, Cincinnati and Connecticut.
ON THE SPOT: This will be an interesting week for the Panthers, since it will be the first time in 2009-10 that the team will have to overcome some doubts and adversity. Not many believed in them to start the season, and back-to-back losses may get the experts questioning again. Coming out with a strong performance against St. John's would erase a lot of that, but another home loss would only get more people assuming the early start was a mirage.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "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 our brother's back on the court. We're all trying to stick together.'' -- Pitt guard Travon Woodall said.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
SEASON RECAP: After beginning the Big East season with five wins in a row, the Panthers dropped a pair of conference games to Georgetown and Seton Hall last week. A big culprit was the team's offense, which averaged 63.5 points over the two defeats.
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 82, Louisville 77 (OT)
Georgetown 74, Pittsburgh 66
Seton Hall 64, Pittsburgh 61
vs. St. John's, Thursday, Jan. 28
at South Florida, Saturday, Jan. 31
at West Virginia, Wednesday, Feb. 3
vs. Seton Hall, Saturday, Feb. 6
vs. Robert Morris, Monday, Feb. 8
IN FOCUS: The game with St. John's wouldn't appear to be one to worry about, since the Red Storm will enter with a 2-5 record in the Big East. But the Johnnies are playing everyone tough, have the size and athleticism to cause the Panthers problem and will be desperate for a signature win to vault the program back into discussion of possible NCAA Tournament teams.
One of the big scoring threats to watch on the Red Storm is guard Dwight Hardy, who has been on a roll in recent weeks and is having no problems adjusting in his first Big East season.
--Ashton Gibbs' 14-for-14 day at the free-throw line against Seton Hall was one shy of the school record for most makes in a game without a miss. Jerry McCullough went 15-15 against Marshall in a game in 1992.
--Jermaine Dixon finished with 11 points against Seton Hall, his second game in a row and his sixth of the season in double figures.
--Dante Taylor played just seven minutes against Seton Hall, the fewest the freshman has seen all season. He finished with two fouls and two turnovers, and did not score.
Pitt Basketball Notebook
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