When No. 17 Pittsburgh (22-7, 11-5) takes on Providence (12-16, 4-12) tonight at 9 at the Petersen Events Center, the challenge will be entirely different. The Friars were a senior-laden group last year and much less experienced this season.
But Pitt sophomore guard Ashton Gibbs doesn't look at the matchup that way.
"That's part of being in the Big East, that anybody can get beaten on any given night,'' Gibbs said. "We just saw some film on them, and they had a good win against UConn (Jan. 27). They're a talented team, very versatile, and we know they were able to beat us last year.
"But we have to treat this like any other game. Last year, we just didn't come out strong. We came out lackadaisical and lazy, and they took advantage of it. Before you knew it, we were down 20. So, that's definitely something we can't do now, and hopefully we won't do it.''
That win against Connecticut, unfortunately for the Friars, has been the team's only bright spot the past five weeks. Providence is just 1-10 since a Jan. 14 win at DePaul with eight straight losses. And its defense has been horrific, ranking 332nd among 334 Division I-A programs.
"Offensively, they like to shoot the ball from 3 and space out the floor,'' Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said. "They usually play a little smaller, so we have to prepare for that and the press and their switching man (defense). But they like to shoot the 3, and we have to be aware of those long rebounds.
"(And) they seem to give up a lot of points, but they also can score a bunch of points, too. So, we understand how they play. They force turnovers and take quick shots or they can be patient in the half-court offense. So, we have to watch the 3 and guarding one-on-one off of ball screens as well.''
Pitt's head coach believed that since the Friars shoot quickly on offense and press a lot on defense, that leads to a fast-paced game, high-scoring game, and a reason that Providence gives up a lot of points (81.2 per game). An example is a recent 109-105 overtime loss to South Florida, Dixon noted.
Providence coach Keno Davis has several top athletic players in his lineup, including 6-foot-6, 230-pound sophomore forward Jamine Peterson (19.3 points, 9.9 rebounds per game), 5-10 senior guard Sharaud Curry (15.5 points), 6-5 junior guard Marshon Brooks (14.4) and 6-2 freshman guard Vincent Council (9.8).
"Peterson is one of those undersized guys who people might have overlooked, but the redshirt year helped me,'' Dixon said. "He's jumped right into his spot, and he's a tough matchup. He's strong enough to play inside and versatile enough to play outside. We have to be prepared for him.''
Pitt sophomore Nasir Robinson and redshirt junior Gilbert Brown likely will have the task of guarding Peterson. Senior guard Jermaine Dixon should have Council.
"They're a good team that's stayed with a lot of big-name teams, so they get up for the competition,'' Jermaine Dixon said. "We know it's tough in the Big East, and they're going to be on their A game. And we have to be ready.
"So, we just have to do what we do, play good defense and rebound hard. Defense is something that you've got to want to do, and I love it. I want to stop the other team's best guard and help my teammates in any way possible.''
Gibbs believed the Panthers have a chance to crank up their offense.
"We just have to move the ball,'' Gibbs said. "Our guards need to penetrate, move the ball and look for open teammates and knock down open shots when we get them. That's what we've been working on pretty hard in practice, and we're going to continue to do that in the games.''
Gibbs has been inconsistent offensively, even with an open shot, but he says that's not because he's tired.
"My legs are all right, and I'm feeling fine,'' Gibbs said. "I just have to keep getting as much rest as I can and keep working hard in practice when we're on the court. That's especially going to be important as we get ready for the post-season and when we go for a post-season run.
"So, it's something I really want to try to do. (And) I'm always going to be confident in my shot, and I'm going to get in the gym when I get a chance to get some extra shots up. That helps my confidence, and that can only help me carry that over into the games.''
And with just two regular-season games remaining before the Big East and NCAA tournaments, it's time for Gibbs and Pitt to get on a roll.
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