07 March 2012
One down. Four to go. As unlikely as winning the next four may be, it's possible. You have to win round one before you can win round two.
And win they did with a convincing victory over a very short-handed St. John's team. Pitt scored over 70 for just the fifth time in Big East play this season against the Red Storm. But they other 71 points will likely be forgotten in place of one ally-op dunk from Tray Woodall to Nasir Robinson (via the PG):
Robinson's flush came in the midst of a game-defining run late in the first half and gave his teammates the momentum necessary to run away from St. John's for a 73-59 victory in the first round of the Big East tournament at Madison Square Garden.
"I didn't know he could dunk," sophomore Lamar Patterson joked in the locker room, just loud enough for Robinson to hear him. "He surprised me. I never saw him dunk before in my life."
But Patterson wasn't joking when he said the play turned the tide of the game. It came on a fastbreak with 15 seconds remaining before halftime, and it capped a 13-2 run that left Pitt with a 33-28 lead at intermission.
"We needed that momentum and we just brought that momentum out in the second half," Patterson said. "It was a big play. A senior gave it to us, and it's what we needed."
A bit more on the banged up Robinson's dunk (via the Trib):
"For four years he's been bothering me," Woodall said. "I definitely knew he was ready for that."
Robinson, who has his knee drained a few times per week, gave Pitt a 33-28 halftime lead with the dunk, which ended a 13-2 surge.
"I always tell (Woodall) at practice (to throw the alley-oop)," Robinson said. "Sometimes he doesn't throw it. Sometimes he does. Today, I made eye contact with him, and he threw it up and I got it."
Sophomore J.J. Moore said the rest of the team was surprised to see Robinson, generously listed at 6-foot-5, elevate so high.
"At practice, he never really does that much because his knee is bothering him," Moore said. "We hopped up off the bench, and we were hyped. That just got the team ready."
But the story of the game might have been Pitt's defense, which finally performed at a high level. Pitt held St. John's under 60 points and under 35% shooting. Their shooting numbers were propped up by Big East Rookie of the Year Moe Harkless, who was 10-for-16 with 25 points. It's been a tough year for St. John's between Steve Lavin's absence due to his fight with cancer and having just a 6 man rotation. It may get even tougher for the Red Storm as Harkless is set to test the NBA waters already.
Leading the scoring for Pitt was Ashton Gibbs and Nasir Robinson who finally won their first Big East Tournament game and scored 35 total. Lamar Patterson and Flipp scored nine, while JJ Moore scored eight on a poor shooting night while played only 17 minutes.
Pitt was once again let down by their big men, with Taylor, Zanna and Gilbert combining for seven points and 11 rebounds despite St. John's having no real inside presence. Steven Adams can't arrive fast enough.
Tray Woodall was also bad, turning the ball over six times.
But a win is a win is a win. A rematch with Georgetown is next.
(A look at today's game against Georgetown after the jump)
* * * * *
So Pitt lives to fight another day. Today, they'll take on Georgetown at 2:00. ESPN2/ESPN3.com or 93.7 The Fan. For what it's worth, Georgetown has struggled as of late away from DC, including their loss in Pittsburgh (via the Trib):
Georgetown (22-7), which received a first-round bye, is 6-3 since losing to Pitt. That includes a 14-point win over Connecticut, a 30-point win against South Florida, a 21-point win over Villanova and an 18-point victory against Notre Dame. All of those wins were at home, and the losses came on the road â€” at Syracuse, Seton Hall and Marquette.
"They are a very experienced team," Dixon said. "They are very patient and skilled."
In the first game against Georgetown, Nasir Robinson scored a season-high 23 points, making all nine of his field-goal attempts. Lamar Patterson scored a career-high 18 points and added seven assists. Georgetown's top scorer, Jason Clark, made three baskets in 38 minutes to finish with nine points, going 0 for 5 from 3-point range.
Pitt, which never trailed, had assists on 20 of its 25 baskets. The Panthers, who are 5-1 in their past six games against Georgetown, shot 52 percent and outrebounded the Hoyas, 35-23.
"In (rebounding and defense), we were awful," Georgetown coach John Thompson III said after that game. "They got everything they wanted and, when they didn't, they got the rebound. And that's the difference."
To get to the finals, Georgetown has to go through Pitt, Cincinnati and Syracuse, all three teams the lost to in the regular season (via the Washington Post):
In fact, it could be argued that the Panthers are the one team Clark and the Hoyas didnâ€™t want the face in their first game, because it was Nasir Robinson and Pittsburgh who picked apart Georgetownâ€™s vaunted defense en route to the victory earlier this season.
Miscommunication left gaping holes that Robinson and fellow forwards Lamar Patterson and Talib Zanna exploited for wide-open shots around the rim. Robinson shot 9 for 9 from the floor and the Panthers connected on 52.1 percent of their field goals.
Pitt played near flawlessly in their first meeting and Georgetown's defense was a mess. Pitt has to clean up the turnovers and continue shooting well to make it to Thursday against Cincinnati.
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