Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon has his team well drilled.
The next game is the most important of the season, regardless of what name is stitched across the front of the jersey.
Still, junior guard Cam Wright allows things will be different tonight when the 20th–ranked Panthers face No. 18 Duke.
Though Pitt has already swept Maryland and won on the road at Georgia Tech and North Carolina State, Wright is well aware that walking onto the court and seeing Mike Krzyzewski will be borderline surreal.
“Looking down to my left and seeing Coach K on the sideline, I don’t even know how to explain it,” Wright said. “That will be a pretty remarkable moment I guess.”
One that will make the somewhat emotionally painful transition – though financially lucrative – move from the Big East to the Atlantic Coast Conference worth it. Tickets were going for as much as $1,200 on the secondary market on Sunday afternoon, good enough to pay for season tickets and then some.
“People have been talking about it, about tickets,” Dixon said. “It doesn’t really bother me but my assistants have been a little flustered.”
Maybe, but it hasn’t translated on the court.
The Panthers (18–2, 6–1) were Big East royalty for much of the millennium before moving to the ACC. While the destinations on their conference road trips have changed. The results have not.
Pitt’s only loss in league play so far is to fellow Big East ex–pat and No. 2 Syracuse, which says something about the state of the Panthers’ new home. The ACC hasn’t quite looked like the ACC through the season’s first three months. That includes the Blue Devils (16–4, 5–2), who have already lost on the road to Notre Dame and Clemson.
It doesn’t get any easier for Duke, which travels to the Carrier Dome on Saturday. Two losses would all but take the Blue Devils out of the conference title race by the first week of February.
The Panthers, however, refuse to call the Blue Devils vulnerable, or anything else really. Dixon has praised his team’s ability to remain focused on the task at hand. On Saturday, it was finding a way to beat Maryland for the second time in three weeks.
If Pitt was caught sneaking around the corner at Duke, it didn’t show. Lamar Patterson continued his breakout season by scoring 28 points as the Panthers kept the Terrapins at a safe distance the entire second half.
Duke and star freshman Jabari Parker will present a starkly different challenge, though it hasn’t really mattered who Pitt has played at home this season. The Panthers are unbeaten and largely unchallenged at Petersen Events Center, where they are 12–0 this season.
That mark includes a 76–43 dismantling of Clemson last week in which Pitt recorded an assist on 24 of 27 field goals. It’s that kind of selflessness that led Maryland coach Mark Turgeon to call the Panthers “one of the best teams I’ve ever coached against.”
It’s a compliment Pitt takes in stride because, well, that just what the Panthers do.
After building the program into one of the nation’s elite by becoming one of the toughest defensive teams in the country, Pitt has adapted to decidedly less physical ACC by pulling a switcheroo. Where the Panthers used to plod, now they soar. Pitt is second in the ACC behind Duke in points per game (76.3) and first in field goal percentage and assists.
The Panthers are winning with style. Do it on national television tonight and they’ll no longer by outliers in a new–look conference. They’ll be front–runners, just like they planned.
“We’re excited but we’re not looking at it as we’re playing Duke next,” Wright said. “We’re looking at it as a game on our schedule and a roadblock that we have to get past.”
Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon has his team well drilled.
Pitt slips past Clemson in OT
Lamar Patterson had a career-high 30 points, including a 3-pointer with 3 seconds left, as Pittsburgh overcome a five-point deficit in the final seconds of regulation and beat Clemson 83-78 in overtime Saturday.
Patterson’s 3 with 3 seconds left cut the Tigers’ lead to 67-65.
Robert Morris holds off St. Francis in NEC
Karvel Anderson and Lucky Jones came up big again for top-seeded Robert Morris, with 21 and 18 points, respectively, but clutch free throws by David Appolon preserved a 60-57 victory over sixth-seeded St. Francis in a Northeast Conference semifinal on Saturday.
The Colonials (21-12) advance to Tuesday’s championship for the fifth time in six years, facing fourth-seeded Mount St. Mary’s (15-16).
Danel helping Falcons to Division III tournament
When Chelsea Danel was a senior at North Star, the Cougars were able to win a District 5-AA basketball title.
Now Danel, a senior at Messiah College in Mechanicsburg, is a key contributor on a Falcons’ hoops squad which upset top-seeded Lebanon Valley 53-47 in the Commonwealth Conference championship on Saturday. It was the ninth title for the Falcons in 13 appearances.
Ferndale grad aiding Duquesne women’s hoops
Matt Schmidt was hired as an assistant coach for the Duquesne women’s basketball team in June.
Now the former Ferndale High School standout will have his first opportunity to experience March madness with the Dukes, who are the sixth-seed in the Atlantic 10 Tournament which opened Thursday in Richmond Coliseum in Richmond, Va.
Icecats on way to national tournament
The Pitt-Johnstown hockey team needed to overcome some long odds to advance to the ACHA Men’s Division III national championship tournament in Coral Springs, Fla. next week.
- Local Sports Briefs 3-7-14
St. Francis wins NEC quarterfinal
Ronnie Drinnon hit a go-ahead basket and a pair of free throws in the final 48 seconds, scoring a career high 20 points as sixth-seeded St. Francis battled past third-seeded Bryant 55-54 in the Northeast Conference tournament Wednesday night.
St. Francis hasn’t been in the playoffs since the 2010-11 season and scrapped past Bryant (18-14) in a closely fought contest that saw five ties and five lead changes – three in the final 3:37.
Wake Forest beats Pitt in ACC opener
Dearica Hamby finished with 25 points, 16 rebounds, eight assists and two steals as No. 11 seed Wake Forest women beat 14th-seeded Pittsburgh 72-58 in the first round of the ACC tournament on Wednesday night.
Hamby had a tremendous night in notching her school-record 22nd double-double of the season.
UPJ makes day special for young sports fan
The Pitt-Johnstown baseball team made one of the most important signings in the program’s history on Wednesday at the Sports Center.
Johnstown resident Jill Miller signed a letter of intent on behalf of her 4-year-old son Brandon, who is battling Chiari Malformation, a brain ailment that leads to pain throughout the young boy’s body on a daily basis.
Warren leads N.C. State past Pittsburgh
T.J. Warren scored a career-high 41 points and N.C. State surged past Pittsburgh 74-67 on Monday night.
Warren’s eighth 30-point game of the year gave the Wolfpack’s flagging NCAA tournament hopes a needed boost. N.C. State (18-12, 8-9 ACC) won for just the second time in its last six games, riding Warren for much of the second half.
The ACC’s leading scorer made seven straight shots at one point and finished 16 of 22 from the field. His emphatic dunk in the final seconds sealed it.
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- Pitt slips past Clemson in OT