Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Healthier Panthers Put Skid in the Past Pitt Basketball

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Healthier Panthers Put Skid in the Past Pitt Basketball

Article excerpt

Pitt had a stretch of five losses in seven games from Jan. 27 to Feb. 23, and there were questions about whether the Panthers would recover in time to secure an NCAA tournament berth.

But the Panthers got healthy, regrouped and won three of their next four. Then they won two games last week at the ACC tournament in Greensboro, N.C., before losing a 51-48 heartbreaker Saturday to eventual champion Virginia in a semifinal.

Coach Jamie Dixon and his players said that loss was disappointing, but the way they played in Greensboro gives them confidence this week as they enter the NCAA tournament.

Dixon said the Panthers are playing their best basketball of the season and that is the way every team wants to go into the NCAA tournament.

"We are excited about how we are playing right now," Dixon said. "We have three practices to keep improving. Our 7-2 record on the road is the best in the conference and we really did a good job of recovering from [the loss of Durand Johnson]. And now we are healthier, Lamar Patterson is healthy, Talib [Zanna] is obviously healthy and we saw that in the ACC tournament."

Pitt's players said that even when they were losing and things weren't going well, they knew they were a good team that just needed to get back on track and get healthier.

"We always had a good feeling about ourselves. Even when we lost a few games, we feel like we showed all season that we could play with anyone," said junior Cameron Wright. "A lot of games came down to the buzzer or were one-possession games and I think we gained a lot of confidence this past week by winning some games."

Guard James Robinson said: "Sometimes you go through ups and downs, but the key was we just stuck together and kept fighting and kept trying to get through those tough losses."

Robinson, like Zanna and Patterson, also dealt with an injury down the stretch. He was slowed by a pulled quad muscle and even though he battled through it and kept playing, it was clear he wasn't the same. …

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