Jan. 11, 2010
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GAME 16: #16 PITT (13-2, 3-0 Big East) at #15 CONNECTICUT (11-4, 2-2 Big East)
Wednesday, January 13, 2010 7 p.m. ET
XL Center (16,294) Hartford, Conn.
Television: ESPN2 (John Saunders and Fran Fraschilla; Producer: Eric Mosley).
Radio: Pitt Panthers/ISP Sports Radio Network (Bill Hillgrove, Dick Groat and Curtis Aiken), 94.5-FM (WWSW), 970-AM (WBGG). Satellite Radio: Channel 153 (Pitt feed).
Internet Radio Broadcast/Live Stats: www.pittsburghpanthers.com.
The Coaches: Pitt: Jamie Dixon, 11th year at Pitt, 7th year as head coach (176-47); Connecticut: Jim Calhoun, 24th year at UConn (568-209), 38th year overall (816-346).
Rankings: Pitt: AP-16; ESPN-20; Connecticut: AP-15; ESPN-15.
Series: Pitt and Connecticut meet for the 57th time in series history. UConn holds a 30-26 all-time advantage in the series, although Pitt has claimed three of the last four matchups. Pitt is 7-5 against Connecticut since March, 2003 and is 2-2 in its last four meetings played at UConn.
HARTFORD, Conn.-- No. 16 Pitt (13-2, 3-0 Big East) plays its fourth Big East Conference regular season game and final contest of a three-game road stretch when it travels to No. 15 Connecticut (11-4, 2-2 Big East) for a Wednesday, Jan. 13 contest. Tipoff is at 7 p.m. ET at the XL Center in Hartford.
The contest will be televised on ESPN2 with John Saunders (play-by-play) and Fran Fraschilla (color analyst) making the call. Eric Mosley will handle production.
The Pitt-Connecticut matchup pairs each of the Big East's top two winningest programs of the 21st Century. Since the 2001-02 season, Pitt has compiled the Big East's best overall winning percentage (.801, 233-58) and league's best regular season record (99-36), while Connecticut ranks second in both categories with a .765 overall winning percentage (218-67) and 98-38 league record. During that period, Pitt has made eight NCAA Tournament appearances, while UConn has made seven. The two schools have also met in three of the last eight Big East Championship Finals. In the last eight years, both programs rank among the nation's top five in NCAA Sweet Sixteen appearances with five. Over the series' last 10 games, the series is tied at 5-5 with every game decided by 10 points or fewer. In nine of the last 10 matchups, both teams entered the game as a top-25 nationally ranked team. Once again both programs enter the matchup ranked among the nation's top-25.
Pitt is currently on a six-game win streak and has won nine of its last 10 contests. Pitt is in the midst of its most difficult schedule stretch in years. It has already won two consecutive road games at No. 15 Syracuse (87-72) and at Cincinnati (74-71). It will now play two ranked opponents among its next three including No. 15 Connecticut, Louisville and No. 11 Georgetown.
For the 12th time in Big East play, Pitt will play back-to-back-to-back road games. Pitt has never won all three consecutive games in league play. The last time Pitt won three straight scheduled road games was last year in December-January (at Florida State, at Rutgers and at Georgetown). Pitt's 3-0 start marks its best start to league regular season play since last year when it won its first four league games. Pitt began Big East play with a 5-0 record on two different occasions in both 2006-07 and 2002-03.
For only the fifth game this year, Pitt will have its roster entirely intact with the return of its two most experienced players-Gilbert Brown (academic suspension) and Jermaine Dixon (right foot fracture). Since both players have returned to the floor against Ohio on Dec. 22, 2009, Pitt owns a perfect 4-0 record. Since the duo's return, Brown and Dixon have combined to average 24.3 points and 7.5 rebounds per game while Pitt has seen an increase in offensive production as it has averaged 73.8 points per game, shot 48.8 percent (102-209) from the floor and 47.1 percent from three point range. Dixon sat out the season's first eight games after suffering a broken right foot in August. Pitt returned just one starter (Dixon) and six letterwinners from its 2008-09 squad. Through its first 10 games, Pitt started five players that had accumulated just one previous career start. Dixon made his return vs. Indiana after sitting out the first eight games while recovering from a broken fifth metatarsal in his right foot. For a rundown on how much experience Pitt had in the early going this season, please take a look at the chart on page 6.
Pitt is 3-0 in Big East play after defeating Cincinnati, 74-71, on Jan. 4. Gilbert Brown scored a 13 of his career-high 17 points in the second half, Ashton Gibbs finished with 19 points (10-11 FTM) and Jermaine Dixon added 10 as the Panthers held off the Bearcats.
Pitt also defeated No. 5 Syracuse on January 2, 82-72. The game featured the Big East's best defensive team (Pitt) and the league's best offensive team (Syracuse). Pitt scored a season-high 82 points and limited Syracuse to 15 points below its season average in registering the victory. Pitt outscored SU 55-42 in the second half alone. Ashton Gibbs scored a game-high 24 points on 6-9 3-point shooting, Jermaine Dixon registered a career-high 21 points (3-8 3FG), Brad Wanamaker contributed 12 points (10-14 FT) and Dante Taylor added 10 points as Pitt claimed its 12th contest out of its last 15 matchups against the Orange and won its fifth straight over SU at the Carrier Dome. Head Coach Jamie Dixon improved to 8-2 all-time vs. top-5 nationally ranked teams. Dixon also claimed his 175th career victory. The win put him in second place on Pitt's all-time career coaching victories list. H.C. Carlson, who comprised a 367-247 record from 1922-53, is the school's all-time winningest coach.
Even though it plays one more non-conference game (vs. Robert Morris on Feb. 8), Pitt concluded its non-conference portion of its schedule with 10 wins for the ninth consecutive season.
At home, Pitt currently owns the nation's second longest home win streak at 30 games and a 46-game win streak against non-conference opponents. It also owns a 50-9 record vs. Big East opponents at the Petersen Events Center.
Connecticut is 11-4 overall and 2-2 in the Big East. The Huskies entered the season ranked among the nation's top-10 teams and are led by Jerome Dyson (19.3 ppg./5.3 rpg), Stanley Robinson (17.1 ppg/7.7 rpg), Kemba Walker (12.7 ppg/3.7 rpg) and Gavin Edwards (10.9 ppg/6.2 rpg).
TODAY'S TOP STORYLINES
Today's matchup features the Big East's top two winningest programs over the last 10 years. Since the 2001-02 season, Pitt owns a 233-58 overall and 99-36 league record while UConn is 218-67 overall and 98-38 in Big East play. Both teams enter the game ranked among the nation's top-25 for the 10th time in the last 11 meetings.
Pitt enters the game after having won six straight games and winners of nine of its last 10 contests. The game marks Pitt's third and final of a three-game road swing.
Pitt currently has won four straight road games, including three consecutive this year. Pitt has also claimed nine of its last 12 road games. A victory would give Pitt its third win in three straight Big East road games for the first time in school history.
Pitt is 4-0 since veterans Jermaine Dixon (right foot injury) and Gilbert Brown (academic suspension) both returned to the floor for the first time against Ohio (Dec. 22). Pitt played its first 10 games with a starting five that combined for one career start prior to the season opener.