Pitt ended its two-game slide with an impressive 63-47 win over %%MATCH_15%% at Madison Square Garden on Sunday.
The win was impressive in the sense that Tray Woodall put on a clinic--25 points on 8-14 shooting. Lamar Patterson chipped in 11 points, and grabbed a team-high six rebounds. While the first half was touch and go, once the second half started, Pitt controlled the tempo of the game for the entire second frame.
"The league is so tight, I believe us and St. John's have the same record," sophomore guard Cameron Wright said. "That was a big win for us."
Perhaps more noticeable, within the context of the win, was how some of the minutes were split up. Talib Zanna--who has started all 28 games this season at the four. In recent games, however Zanna's production has dropped. He does have 12 games in double-figures this season. However, just one of those games have come in the last 12.
Zanna played just 15 minutes on Sunday. J.J. Moore played a significant part of the second half, finishing with 23 minutes. Don't look for Moore to replace Zanna in the starting lineup any time soon. Even though he's seen more minutes than Zanna in the last three games, head coach Jamie Dixon downplayed any notion that Zanna's starting position, or anyone else's is in jeopardy.
"Usually, it's foul trouble, or an injury that has more of an effect on it than anything," Dixon said. "I think that's what you have to be prepared for, more than anything. There's always different reasons why you substitute, and what you make adjustments for."
Following wins by %%MATCH_16%% and %%MATCH_14%% on Monday, Pitt is in sole possession of seventh place in the Big East standings. As the Panthers enter this final four-game stretch of the regular season, the focus turns to locking up one of those top four seeds in order to get a first-round bye in the Big East Tournament. With Georgetown and Marquette in the driver's seat, with records of 11-3 and 11-4, respectively, finishing in the top four is still in reach. The Panthers will need a little help.
The team to target is %%MATCH_17%%. The Orange is 10-5 in conference play, with Pitt a game behind them at 9-6. Should both teams finish with the same conference record, Pitt gets the tiebreaker because of its win over Syracuse on February 2.
With two games at home, and two on the road, and three games against the bottom three teams in the standings--DePaul, Seton Hall and South Florida--all four a very winnable for this team. Then again, that's only what it says on paper. Anything can happen in the Big East, and the players seem very aware of that.
"We always want to win them all," Wright said. "We play in a great conference. You have to be confident every day, take it just one step at a time."
That all starts tonight against South %%MATCH_18%%, who comes to Petersen Events Center with an overall record of 10-16, and a conference record of 1-13. Wright points to last season, where the Bulls swept both regular season meetings, as reason enough to not look past this team.
"Give them credit, they beat us last year, they swept us," Wright said. "That should give them all the more energy to come out and play even harder against us. We need to protect our home court."
Television: ESPN Regional/ROOT Sports (Kevin Connors, Bob Wenzel)
Radio: 93.7 The Fan (Bill Hillgrove, Dick Groat, Curtis Aiken)