Pitt Basketball Notebook

The Sports Xchange takes a look at the Pitt men's basketball team as it prepares for its game with Villanova Sunday at noon at the Petersen Events Center.

GETTING INSIDE Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon has a winning record against Hall of Fame coaches Jim Boeheim and Jim Calhoun. He also has more wins than losses against other high-profile coaches such as Rick Pitino and Bob Huggins.

In fact, Dixon has a .500-or-better record against every coach he has competed against on multiple occasions except for one: Villanova coach Jay Wright.

Wright has beaten Dixon five times in the nine games Pitt and Villanova have played since Dixon became head coach of the Panthers in 2003-04. Wright became the only coach to have a winning record against Dixon because the Wildcats beat Pitt twice last season, including a last-second victory in an NCAA Elite Eight game that sent the Wildcats to the Final Four and left the top-seeded Panthers devastated.

Villanova and Pitt meet for the first time since that epic NCAA contest Sunday at noon at the Petersen Events Center.

One of the reasons for Wright's success might be a scheduling quirk. This is only the second time Pitt has played host to Villanova in five regular-season meetings. Pitt played at Villanova in 2005, 2007 and 2009. The only meeting in the past five years between the two schools in Pittsburgh came in 2008.

Villanova has not won in Pittsburgh since 1996. The Wildcats will be looking to put an end to that long drought and to bounce back from their third loss of the season, suffered Monday night against Connecticut. Villanova has not lost consecutive games in almost two full calendar years.

PITT 58, MARQUETTE 51: The Panthers received a stellar defensive effort and an efficient offensive performance to notch another road victory and a ninth consecutive 20-win season.

Marquette entered the game as the second-best 3-point shooting team in the country behind only Utah State. The Golden Eagles shoot better than 42 percent from 3-point range, but Pitt limited them to only 26 percent (5-for-19) Thursday night. Marquette did not make a 3-pointer in the final 18:33 of the contest and missed its final nine attempts from behind the arc.

Four players -- Gary McGhee, Nasir Robinson, Jermaine Dixon and Bradley Wanamaker -- each scored 10 points for the Panthers, who shot 55 percent from the field.

NOTES, QUOTES --When the 2009-10 season finishes and the current Panthers squad goes into the school history book, the word that best describes the team will likely be "tenacious.''

The difference between Pitt getting a good seed in the NCAA Tournament and being one of the numerous other league teams on the bubble is two victories in situations when it wouldn't have taken much for the typical team to mentally pack it in and start preparing for the next game.

In January, the Panthers were down by five in the final minute against Louisville but came back to knock off the Cardinals in overtime. They did that one better on Feb. 12, coming back from seven down to force overtime against West Virginia, then outlasting the Mountaineers in the third extra session.

That game with WVU may go down as the college basketball game of the year. After the Panthers forced overtime, the Mountaineers twice came up big to extend the game -- they hit a 3-pointer to get to the second overtime, and Da'Sean Butler got fouled on a 3-point attempt and hit all three free throws to ensure the third OT.

--In a triple-overtime game, bench play is even more important than normal, and the Panthers reserves won their battle with the Mountaineers. Pitt got 34 points off its bench, with both Gilbert Brown (16) and Travon Woodall (12) in double figures. WVU had just seven, all by John Flowers.

--Brad Wanamaker got his fourth career double-double against West Virginia, with 24 points and 10 assists. It's the first of his double-doubles that combined points with assists; the others were points and rebounds.

ON THE SPOT: Pitt beat Marquette despite being careless with the ball. The Panthers committed 15 turnovers against the Golden Eagles.

Brad Wanamaker had seven of those. Wanamaker has had a season-long problem with turnovers. He leads the team with 74.

Turnovers are something he and his teammates are going to have to shore up before Sunday's showdown with Villanova. The Wildcats average almost eight steals per game.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I think that we did a better job at keeping our composure than some of our fans did. When those guys went out, you had to wonder. We found a way. I think we used Gilbert Brown more. He came up big. He made some big plays down the stretch, which were key for us. We had almost everyone in foul trouble. I thought that we were going to run out of guys, but we found a way.'' -- Pitt coach Jamie Dixon, on how his team played with foul trouble in the three-overtime victory over West Virginia.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL SEASON RECAP: Pitt knocked off West Virginia in triple overtime, avenging an earlier loss with a 98-95 thriller. The Panthers are battling for one of the top four seeds in the Big East tournament.

PLAYER ROTATION: Usual Starters -- F Nasir Robinson, C Gary McGhee, G Brad Wanamaker, G Ashton Gibbs, G Jermaine Dixon. Key Subs -- G/F Gilbert Brown, F Dante Taylor, G Travon Woodall.

GAME REVIEW: Pittsburgh 83, Seton Hall 58 Pittsburgh 77, Robert Morris 53 Pittsburgh 98, West Virginia 95 (3 OT) Pittsburgh 58, Marquette 51

GAME PREVIEW: vs. Villanova, Sunday at noon at Notre Dame, Wednesday, Feb. 24 at St. John's, Saturday, Feb. 27 vs. Providence, Thursday, March 4

IN FOCUS: Pitt gets a crack at its second top-five opponent in a 10-day period when Villanova arrives on Feb. 21. The guard-heavy Wildcats will be a challenge to the Panthers backcourt, particularly Wildcats senior and Big East Player of the Year candidate Scottie Reynolds.

ROSTER REPORT: --F Nasir Robinson scored in double figures Thursday for the first time in more than a month. Robinson scored 10 points on 4-for-6 shooting. He had gone eight consecutive games without reaching double figures after scoring a career-high 26 points against Louisville on Jan. 16.

--C Gary McGhee had a career-high six blocks against Marquette. His previous high of five came against Ohio in December.

--G Ashton Gibbs was held to a season-low two points Thursday and did not make a field goal for the first time this season. Pitt's leading scorer was 0-for-6 from the field and scored his only two points on free throws in the first half.

Panther Digest Top Stories