Pitt's Troutman the quiet leader of his team
The coach made a fiery halftime speech, but it was the quiet cool of Pittsburgh's Chevon Troutman that made the difference against UConn.
STORRS, Conn. -- Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon gave one of his more fiery speeches at halftime, about as inspired as the oft-maligned Dixon can be in the locker room.
He tried to rally Pittsburgh. He talked about toughness and playing together. He mentioned some names. He singled out Chevon Troutman.
What did Troutman say?
Did we miss something?
"That's what he said," Krauser said laughing.
What? Troutman didn't say anything?
"I know," Krauser said. "I just told you what he said. Nothing. Chevy doesn't say anything. He just sits there and just plays. He might clap and say, 'let's go.' But he just plays.
"I've been playing with him for four years. I know that look on his face when he's anxious. He wants the ball. He gets down low in position and gets the ball and usually the foul."
Boy, did he Saturday night.
Troutman took over the game and literally wrestled it away from the Huskies. Troutman scored 25 of 29 points in the second half to lead the Panthers from down 11 at halftime to up 10 for the final.
The final slap in the face for the Huskies came when Troutman just took the ball away from Connecticut point guard Marcus Williams with 17 seconds left. The Panthers were up 69-64. Troutman converted the fast-break layup at the other end, got fouled by Hilton Armstrong and then made the two free throws (it was an intentional foul) for a four-point play to ice the game.
"I just came off of screens and caught stuff," Troutman said of his big second half. "The coaches got us fired up and confident and we soaked it all up. We did what we were told to do in the second half."
This isn't the first time the fifth-year senior rescued Pittsburgh.
Troutman scored a then season-high 23 points, including 15 in the second half, to beat Seton Hall on Jan. 10. Troutman scored 10 points in the final five minutes of the 67-63 victory.
"He's got the will power and he's used to winning," Dixon said of Troutman. "He's a tough kid."
Troutman, all 6-foot-7, 240-pounds of him, doesn't mind being the undersized power player. He can play off of the taller Chris Taft, Aaron Gray and Levon Kendall in the post. He got UConn's Josh Boone in foul trouble and eventually helped foul him out. Troutman made anyone who attempted to guard him look a bit silly as he sliced through double teams to finish around the basket.
Forget about how much Pittsburgh misses the defense and toughness of Jaron Brown and Julius Page. They're gone. They finished their eligibility. That's a non-issue now.
This is Troutman's team, even if he doesn't say much.
The rest of the players know he's the one they must follow.
Troutman wasn't a silent member at a three-hour team meeting in the Harlem Room at the New York Hilton Hotel last Tuesday following St. John's victory over Pittsburgh at Madison Square Garden.
But he didn't have to say much to the team. They knew how he felt.
"We talked about how we all had to stick together," Krauser said. "We talked about how we couldn't go in opposite directions."
The Panthers nearly got derailed earlier Saturday. The blizzard of 2005 made Pittsburgh switch hotels from a Marriott by Bradley International Airport to a Best Western near Storrs during the day. Then, during their shootaround Saturday, the Panthers were a bit lackluster as they seemingly went through the motions.
They looked snowed in during the first half as Connecticut blew through them for the 11-point lead.
The Panthers rescued their Big East season, at least their visions of a title, with their second-half comeback.
Connecticut doesn't have a signature win yet. Pittsburgh now has one over the Huskies, since home wins over South Carolina and Richmond and a neutral site win over Memphis don't look as sparkling.
The Panthers, who are tied with the Huskies at 3-2 in the Big East, still get Syracuse twice and must go to Boston College on Feb. 28.
"We needed this one since a lot of people were talking negative about us losing to Bucknell [at home] and at St. John's," Krauser said. "We needed this one."
Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com.
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