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.
Blue Jackets outlast Pens in double-OT
Matt Calvert banged home a rebound 1:10 into the second overtime and the Columbus Blue Jackets earned the first playoff victory in franchise history with a 4-3 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday night.
Pittsburgh’s Marc-Andre Fleury stuffed the initial shot by Cam Atkinson but Calvert stood all alone at the left post and wristed a shot into the open net to even the Eastern Conference quarterfinals at one game each.
Brewers rally to clip Pirates
Ryan Braun hit two homers, including a two-run shot with two outs in the ninth inning that sent the Milwaukee Brewers over the Pittsburgh Pirates 8-7 Saturday night.
Braun has five home runs this season after being suspended for the last 65 games of 2013 following Major League Baseball’s investigation into the Biogenesis drug scandal.
Area runners gearing for Boston Marathon
The time was 12:15 p.m. It was Monday April 19, 1897. Tom Burke had drawn a line across the dirt road with his foot. Eighteen men gathered near Metcalf’s Mill in Ashland, Massachusetts.
UPJ takes one, drops second
John Fees’ spring baseball season accurately mirrors that of his Pitt-Johnstown team.
Fees started slow, losing his first four decisions, but has rebounded nicely in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference West Division.
Brewers ward off late Pirates rally bid
Kyle Lohse pitched effectively into the seventh inning, Carlos Gomez homered and the Milwaukee Brewers beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 5-3 Friday night.
Lohse (3-1) improved to 11-2 in his career against the Pirates, allowing one earned run in a win against them for the second time in six days.
Drama lacking sans Tiger
If professional golf saw its future at Augusta National last weekend, the sight had to be worse than choking on a 5-foot putt.
The course was there in all its splendor.
Penguins are wary of spunky Blue Jackets
Sidney Crosby is used to the attention. It comes with the territory when you’re the best hockey player in the world.
Still, the Pittsburgh Penguins star knows the spotlight becomes more acute in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Pirates power past Brewers
Andrew McCutchen hit his first homer of the season and drove in three runs, Pedro Alvarez had a three-run shot and pinch-hitter Josh Harrison broke a tie with a long ball in the seventh inning as the Pittsburgh Pirates handed the Milwaukee Brewers their first road loss, 11-2 on Thursday night.
Harrison’s two-run drive down the left field line off Rob Wooten (0-1) was the second of his career as a pinch hitter.
Jackets preparing for Game 2
The Columbus Blue Jackets don’t feel they’re doomed after blowing a two-goal lead in a Game 1 loss of their first-round Stanley Cup playoff series against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
“It’s not about missed chances, or feeling sorry about it,” goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky said at Thursday’s optional workout, 13 hours after falling 4-3 in Pittsburgh.
- Local Sports Briefs
- More Sports Headlines
- Blue Jackets outlast Pens in double-OT