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Oct. 13, 2012

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PITTSBURGH--Pitt Basketball opened its 2012-13 season with an Outdoor Midnight Madness/Basketball on Bigelow event Friday evening at the Cathedral of Learning on the University of Pittsburgh campus. was on hand to nationally televise the event, which is believed to be the first-ever outdoor Midnight Madness.

Pitt hosted Midnight Madness event for the first time since October, 2004. Midnight Madness was held as part of Pitt's Homecoming and university's 225th Anniversary festivities which included the annual fireworks and laser show. Pitt blocked off Bigelow Boulevard between the Cathedral of Learning and the Pitt Student Union. A blue sport court with Pitt logos was laid over the street, lights were setup and baskets were erected on both sides. Chujko bleachers were built on the Fifth Avenue side and a big screen video board showcased action on the floor. Fans lined the court on all sides and were sprawled out across the lawn on all sides. 

Bubba, from 100.7 FM in Pittsburgh introduced a video tribute to media legend Beano Cook, who passed away this week. Cook, the first sports information director at Pitt, became nationally known as the "Pope of College Football" while serving as a studio commentator for ABC Sports College Football Association telecasts and football studio commentator for ESPN.

The evening began with player introductions for both teams following a police escorted bus ride from the Petersen Events Center to Bigelow Boulevard. Voice of the Panthers Bill Hillgrove first emerged from the bus and made player and coach introductions. Dressed in navy blue Nike Jordan warm-ups, women's head coach Agnus Berenato and her team were introduced first, followed by the men, who sported white hooded Nike warm-ups made specifically for the event. 

To the crowd's surprise, Pitt men's coach Jamie Dixon emerged in a costume dressed as the Jackie Moon character in the movie SemiPro, which was played by Will Farrell. Dixon sported a white replica Tropics uniform with a brown wig and golden sunglasses. He then proceeded to grab the microphone from "Voice of the Panthers" Bill Hillgrove and went about his rendition of Moon in the movie, cracking jokes on each Pitt men's player.

Following remarks by Pitt Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg and interviews with Berenato and Dixon, the Pitt women's team then put on a 3-point shooting exhibition featuring redshirt juniors Abby Dowd and Ashlee Anderson, sophomore Brianna Keisel and redshirt freshman Lo Briggs. The players had the opportunity to make four shots and a "money" ball in one full minute from three different locations on the court. Dowd came away the winner and threw her hands up in victory. 

Next up were three skits performed by the Pitt men's team. Using Oakland Zoo members dressed as the Panthers' opponent in each of the games, the Pitt men's team acted out three of the most memorable plays in its Big East basketball history. The first play was Ronald Ramon's 3-pointer from the corner to defeat West Virginia 55-54 at the Petersen Events Center on February 7, 2008. Oakland Zoo "defenders" sported bright yellow WVU tee-shirts. The second was Levance Fields' stepback 3-pointer to defeat No. 6 Duke at Madison Square Garden on December 20, 2007. Finally, the team acted out Jerome Lane's backboard shattering dunk on January 25, 1988 at Fitzgerald Field House against Providence. ESPN announcers Bob Picozzi and Bill Raftery announced the plays. Ironically, it was Raftery who made the live call on Lane's dunk, which has been voted the top dunk in college basketball history.

The women's team took the floor and performed a popular dance step, the Wobble. Lo Briggs led the squad in its performance. 

The event concluded with a slam dunk contest. Four Panthers - Aron Nwankwo, Chris Jones, Trey Zeigler and J.J. Moore - competed. Each player had two dunks which were voted upon by the Oakland Zoo. Zeigler and Moore advanced to the final. On Moore's final attempt, he soared over Pitt equipment manager Chris Dountas who taped the leap with a flip cam. After Moore was crowned Pitt's dunk champion for the third consecutive season, he announced that he wanted to attempt one more dunk. He grabbed the ball, hyped up the crowd and jumped over 7-footer Steven Adams for a crowd pleasing encore.

An estimated combined crowd of 20,000 attended the fireworks/laser show, student event and Midnight Madness. 


Pitt Hosts Midnight Madness/Basketball on Bigelow

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