No team needed a big weekend victory more than Pittsburgh, as the Panthers certainly could use a boost to their self-confidence after taking a hit over the previous few games.
Pitt entered the Seton Hall game having lost four of its last five games, including a Big Monday loss at West Virginia in which it fell apart late in the game. The team nobody expected much from in the preseason was looking like a squad that the preseason prognosticators had expected to see.
But the Panthers played their best game in a long time in thrashing the Pirates, 83-58, and in doing so revealed an offense that had been stagnant at best and impotent at worse for weeks.
Pitt's point total was the most it poured in all season, as the Panthers shot 51.7 percent from the field and had assists on nearly two-thirds of their 31 baskets. Five players reached double figures in scoring, including Gilbert Brown and Bradley Wanamaker. Both players were held scoreless in the loss to the Mountaineers.
Now, the team is looking for payback. West Virginia plays at Pitt in the return engagement Friday at 9 p.m. at the Petersen Events Center. And the Panthers are a different team than the one which faced WVU last week.
--Pitt finished the Seton Hall game shooting 51.7 percent from the field. That marked its best performance in 12 games.
--The Panthers focused on stopping Jeremy Hazell on defense, and the effort paid off in the victory over Seton Hall. Pitt held the Big East's second-leading scorer to two points on a 1-for-7 performance from the field.
ON THE SPOT: Pitt corrected one problem in the Seton Hall game, showing an unselfishness that had been missing in the previous two games. Pitt assisted on 20 baskets against Seton Hall, seven more than it managed in the previous two games combined.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I think we really struggled the last couple of games when our offense was stagnant. You didn't see a lot of movement and that really hurt us. Even in the games we won we got away from what we do best. Tonight was a prime example of what we need to do on offense." -- Pitt forward Gilbert Brown said after the Seton Hall win.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
SEASON RECAP: Pitt's victory against Seton Hall last Saturday pushed the Panthers to 7-4 in the Big East and tied for fourth place. That's not a bad place to be, since the top four teams get a double-bye in the conference 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.
South Florida 70, Pitt 61
West Virginia 70, Pitt 51
Pitt 83, Seton Hall 58
Pitt 77, Robert Morris 53
vs. West Virginia, Friday at 9 p.m. at the Pete
at Marquette, Thursday, Feb. 18
vs. Villanova, Sunday, Feb. 21
at Notre Dame, Wednesday, Feb. 23
IN FOCUS: Pitt didn't look good when it went to Morgantown Feb. 1, but it didn't have to wait long for the rematch. It gets the Mountaineers again, this time at home, on Friday, and will look to build on the effort that kept it in the game early rather than the one that caused it to fall apart late.
--Gilbert Brown had his worst game of the season against West Virginia, failing to score against the Mountaineers. He rebounded in a big way against Seton Hall, however, leading the team with 23 points.
--Gary McGhee had a strong game against Seton Hall, with 12 points and 11 rebounds. It was his first double-double in more than two months, since the Dec. 2 victory over local rival Duquesne.
--Dante Taylor finally ended his scoreless streak at four games. He put the ball in the basket late in the Seton Hall game to finish with two points in his 12 minutes.