football Edit

Pitt storms St. Johns

Pitt rebounded from its loss on Saturday with a 81-57 win at St. John's, ending a six-game losing streak on the road against the Red Storm. The Panthers improve to 16-3 overall, and 4-2 in the Big East. They also avoid back-to-back losses. Pitt has only lost two games in a row, five times under Jamie Dixon.
"I think it was, for us, a great sign," Dixon said. "We came off a loss and responded in a lot of good way. Our preparation was good and it carried over today. It was something we have done in the past and I was impressed with our guys."
Pitt is also 5-2 since losing Levance Fields and Mike Cook to significant injuries, and they also improve to 19-8 at Madison Square Garden, since the 2000-2001 season.
The Panthers were sparked by three people in double-figures, led by Sam Young, who had his second-consecutive 20-point game, with 26 points. DeJuan Blair added 10, and Ronald Ramon added 16 in front of his hometown crowd, having arguably his best game of the season. He dished out five assists, with just one turnover, and also converted 7-of-9 free throws.
The Pitt defense played a strong game, forcing turnovers early, that set the tone of the game. They forced five turnovers within the first ten minutes, and converted those turnovers into early baskets. Assists and turnovers made the biggest difference, as the Panthers had 17 assists to 13 turnovers, while the Red Storm had nine assists to 16 turnovers.
"I don't think anything matters from two or three years ago," Dixon said. "We have always responded. This was another example of handling and responding from a loss. We responded from the Villanova game and we got better. That is what you have to do. We are nowhere were we need to be and we know that. We can improve as a group."
Pitt created a 10-2 run late in the first half. St. Johns scored the first four points of the second half, but after a 9-0 Pitt run, the Panthers were up by double-digits for the rest of the game. Pitt built were up by as many as 27. Dixon was able to get bench players like Gary McGhee and Brad Wanamaker in the game earlier than usual.
"We are playing four freshmen of our eight guys," Dixon added. "I look at it as an opportunity. The learning curve is greater for freshmen. Those guys keep getting better. That is what we are really working on."
The Panthers shot 48 percent in the first half, and 61 in the second. The Panthers played patient in settled situations, and converted fast breaks off the defensive stops and transition. Gilbert Brown had seven points, four of which came in transition.
The Panthers also had one of their best nights from three-point range, hitting 8-of-15 shots. Young was 3-of-6, while Keith Benjamin, was 2-of-3.
For the first time in its six Big East conference games, St. Johns was outrebounded by its opponent. Pitt finished with a 36-29 edge in rebounding, led by Blair, who finished with eight. Blair was also able to stay out of foul trouble, picking up just two fouls. St. John's started Dele Coker to create more of a post-presence, but luckily for the Panthers, Blair had a near double-double, and stayed out of foul trouble.
"We are adding things," Dixon said. "We are making a transition in the middle of the season. You have guys playing different positions in the middle of the year. We lost guys, as everyone knows, but often you don't lose guys in the same position."
Pitt returns home to take on Rutgers, at 6 p.m. on Saturday, at the Petersen Events Center.