St. John's was looking for its first win on the road over a top 25 team under head coach Norm Roberts. This would have been a good win to improve that abysmal 6-40 Big East road record, but it was again a case of not being able to finish for the Red Storm.
This was really a story about one team playing not so great and the other playing slightly worse. Very ugly game to watch with a lot of easy close-range shots being missed. The Panthers really looked...well...awful in the first half. They started 0-5 from the field and shot under 30% for the half. They played better in the second half, but still only ended up shooting 40% for the game. Still, that was better than St. John's, who mustered only around 33%. They also only had 26 points (total) from their starters.
Pitt was also outhustled at times, lost the rebounding battle by ten and again shot horribly from three-point range (2-12).
The team also had some bad news with the loss of Jermaine Dixon to - you guessed it - another foot injury. I hope it's not serious, but one of the lone bright spots of tonight was the play of his replacement - Travon Woodall. I've been killing Woodall lately...and with good reason. But tonight, he played pretty well in 18 minutes (the most minutes he's seen since the Syracuse game nearly a month ago). He was far from spectacular according to the box score, but he didn't turn the ball over once and looked much more comfortable out there.
But despite all the troubles, Pitt was able to pull out a victory in part to, once again, something that's previously haunted them:
Pitt struggled from the floor for most of the game but used a 21-for-24 effort from the foul line to come away victorious.The free throws thing has really been a pleasant surprise this year. Most Pitt fans would have gladly taken even a mediocre free throw shooting team. In the past five games, they're shooting over 80%. What was previously a major weakness has now turned into, seemingly, a major strength.
And forget about more touches for Taylor - at least it seems like we can. Gary McGhee, who played pretty well tonight (5-7 for 10 points, 4 rebounds, 3 blocks), seems to have all but assumed the role as the #1 center on the team and Dante Taylor's minutes seem to be coming harder to come by - he only had ten tonight.
We also got the good version of Brad Wanamaker tonight and while Gibbs was okay (5-13 from the field for 14 points), his three-point slump is getting a bit ridiculous. He was 0-4 tonight and is now 3-19 over the past three games.
With the #10, #11, #14, #15, and #16 teams in the ESPN/USA Today Top 25 poll all losing so far this week, if Pitt can win at South Florida on Sunday, then they could move back up in the vicinity of the top ten again. I'm not one of those that think the polls are meaningless. I think perception plays a part in seeding and hovering around the top ten for a good chunk of the season can really help.