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GAME 27: #4 PITT (24-2, 12-1 Big East) at ST. JOHN'S (16-9, 8-5 Big East)
Saturday, February 19, 2011 Noon ET
Madison Square Garden (19,528) New York, N.Y.
Television: ESPN (Dave Pasch and Doris Burke; Producer: Scott Matthews).
Radio: Panther Sports Radio Network (Bill Hillgrove and Dick Groat), 93.7 The Fan, 93.7 FM; Satellite Radio: Sirius Channel 122 (St. John's feed).
Internet Radio Broadcast/Live Stats: www.pittsburghpanthers.com.
The Coaches: Pitt: Jamie Dixon, 12th year at Pitt, 8th year as head coach (212-56); St. John's: Steve Lavin, 1st year at SJU (16-9), 8th year overall (161-87).
Rankings: Pitt: AP-4; ESPN-4. St. John's: AP-ARV; ESPN-ARV.
Series: Pitt and St. John's meet for the 55th time in series history with the Red Storm holding a 33-21 advantage. Pitt has won eight of the last 10 matchups in the series including each of the last five consecutive games. In addition, Pitt has claimed each of the last two games against St. John's played at Madison Square Garden.
PITTSBURGH--No. 4 ranked and first place Pitt (24-2, 12-1 Big East) travels to New York City and Madison Square Garden to play St. John's (16-9, 8-5 Big East) for a Saturday, February 19 contest at the Petersen Events Center. Tipoff is slated for Noon ET.
ESPN will broadcast the game nationally with Dave Pasch (play-by-play) and Doris Burke (color analyst) calling action. Scott Matthews will handle production.
Madison Square Garden is Pitt's "home away from home" as the Panthers were named MSG's "Team of the Decade" last spring and have played 37 games there since the 2000-01 season. Since 2000-01, Pitt is 26-11 overall with a .702 winning percentage, has claimed two Big East Championship titles (2003 and 2008) and advanced to the Big East title game in seven of the last 10 seasons. In addition, Pitt has won 14 of its last 19 contests at MSG including two matchups earlier this season in the 2K Sports/Coaches vs. Cancer Classic vs. Maryland and Texas. Head Coach Jamie Dixon owns an 18-9 record in his 27 games at Madison Square Garden. He also coached his first career game at MSG in the Coaches vs. Cancer, a 71-62 win over Alabama on Nov. 14, 2003. Historically, Pitt appeared in the country's first-ever nationally televised game at Madison Square Garden on Feb. 28, 1940, a 57-37 win vs. Fordham. Pitt's roster is always filled with New York area players and includes Travon Woodall (Brooklyn), J.J. Moore (Long Island) and Dante Taylor (Greenburgh) this season.
With its league-leading 12-1 league record, Pitt currently sits atop the Big East Conference with a 2.0-game lead. Notre Dame is in second place with a 10-3 record, Georgetown is third at 9-5, Connecticut, Villanova, Louisville and St. John's are tied for fourth with 8-5 records, Syracuse is eighth at 8-6 and both Cincinnati and West Virginia are ninth at 7-6. With five games remaining, Pitt must play three of its final remaining games against three of those opponents (Villanova, Louisville and West Virginia) in the coming weeks.
The nation's only undefeated team on the road at 6-0, Pitt is rated No. 6 in the national RPI rankings. It has six wins against top-25 RPI opponents and owns a 5-2 record vs. top-25 ranked teams.
Winners of 14 of its last 15 overall games and 15 of its last 16 Big East regular season contests, No. 4 Pitt enters the game on a five-game win streak and following a 67-55 home win over South Florida and two straight road wins against nationally rated opponents including a 57-54 win over No. 9 Villanova and a 71-66 win at No. 25 West Virginia. In each of those three wins, Pitt played without starting point guard and leading scorer Ashton Gibbs, who was injured with an MCL injury in his left knee.
Pitt used a 40-18 rebounding advantage as four Panthers scored in double figures to defeat USF 67-55 on Wednesday. Fueled by a 21-point performance from Philadelphia native Brad Wanamaker and a 15-point outing from Chester native Nasir Robinson, Pitt defeated Villanova on Feb. 12 at the Pavilion, a venue that it lost six straight games and nine of its last 10. Pitt won its fifth straight against top-10 ranked opponents and improved to 12-2 vs. top-10 ranked teams since the 2007-08 season. Jamie Dixon improved to 23-9 all-time vs. top-10 ranked opponents. The Panthers also snapped Villanova's 46-game win streak at the arena. On Feb. 7, Pitt outrebounded the Mountaineers 40-28 and shot 60.7 percent (17-28) in the second half to defeat West Virginia. Four Pitt players reached double figure scoring including Nasir Robinson (15), Gary McGhee (13), Travon Woodall (12) and Brad Wanamaker (11 points/nine rebounds). Woodall stepped in as the starter at point guard.
With the Villanova victory, Pitt Head Coach Jamie Dixon now has winning records against all 15 Big East schools. Here are Dixon's records: Cincinnati 7-1, Connecticut 7-5, DePaul 7-0, Georgetown 6-5, Louisville 5-3, Marquette 6-4, Notre Dame 6-4, Providence 8-1, Rutgers 6-2, St. John's 7-2, Seton Hall 6-3, USF 4-1, Syracuse 9-2, Villanova 6-5, West Virginia 10-6.
Pitt enters its game against St. John's on Saturday after winning each of the five matchups between the two schools. Pitt has also claimed eight of the series' last 10 games. St. John's owns a 33-21 advantage in the 54-game series including a 7-4 record vs. the Panthers in games played at Madison Square Garden.
A win on Wednesday would give Pitt its 13th Big East victory of the year. Pitt has won 13 or more Big East regular season victories in only four previous years. Pitt is the only league school to win 20 overall games and 10 league games in each of the last 10 seasons. With its win over Rutgers, Pitt claimed its 20th win for the 10th consecutive season and Jamie Dixon compiled his eighth straight 20-win campaign.
Pitt's 12-1 start to Big East regular season play marks its best-ever start to league play. A win vs. St. John's would give Pitt its first-ever 13-1 Big East regular season start. Pitt won its first seven Big East regular season games for the first time in school history. Previously, the best league start was five straight wins in three other seasons: 2002-03, 2006-07 and 2009-10.
Pitt's 24-2 record ranks tied for the best start in school history after 26 games. Pitt completed a 21-0 season en route to the mythical national championship in 1927-28, also began 24-2 in both 2003-04 and 2008-09 and now in 2010-11.
After Kansas' loss at Kansas State on Monday night, Pitt is the only team in the nation with an undefeated road record. Currently on a seven-game road win streak which ranks as the school's second longest of its kind in school history, Pitt has won 19 of its last 25 road games. Over the last 10 seasons (2001-11), Pitt owns the Big East's best road winning percentage with a 51-30 record. Pitt's school-best road win streak was 11 consecutive wins in 1927-28. Pitt is 6-0 on the road this year. The six wins tie a school record for most Big East road wins in a season. Pitt's best record in Big East play is 6-2 in five different seasons. With three games remaining, the Panthers have the opportunity to be perfect on the road in Big East play. Only three teams have completed a Big East regular season with a perfect road record: Georgetown in 1983-84, St. John's in 1984-85 and Connecticut in 1998-99. All three of those teams advanced to the Final Four.
SATURDAY'S TOP STORYLINES
With a 2.0-game first place lead at 12-1, Pitt is off to its best-ever start to a Big East regular season. Pitt has never began a BEC regular season with a 12-1 record. Pitt's 24-2 overall record ranks tied for its best-ever start in school history after 26 games.
At 6-0 on the road, Pitt is the only team nationally with an undefeated road record. Winners of each of their last seven road games, the Panthers have won 19 of their last 25 games away from home. Over the last 10 years, Pitt owns the Big East's best road record with a 51-30 combined slate.
MSG is Pitt's home away from home as Pitt has won two BEC titles (2003 and 2008), advanced to the BEC title game in seven of the last 10 years and amassed a 26-11 record in the arena since 2000-01. Pitt has also claimed 14 of its last 19 contests at MSG.
Over the last 10 seasons, Pitt has proved to be the Big East's leader in overall winning pct. (269-67, .800), league winning pct. (121-42, .742), consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances (9) and most 20-win, 10-win Big East years (10).