7:00 PM ET, February 27, 2007
Petersen Events Center, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
As Aaron Gray goes, so goes Pittsburgh.Gray and the 12th-ranked Panthers look to get back on track Tuesday when they host West Virginia in a Big East matchup.With Gray struggling of late, thanks in part to a sprained left ankle, the Panthers (24-5, 11-3) have dropped two of their last four games -- both to Big East rivals at the top of the conference.Pittsburgh had a six-game road win streak snapped with Saturday's 61-53 loss to No. 9 Georgetown, which took sole possession of the Big East lead. Gray, the Panthers' leading scorer and rebounder, came off the bench to score 10 points and grab six boards in 21 minutes in his first game back since being sidelined with the injury on Feb. 17.The seven-footer missed only one game, but says he may have rushed his return."I wasn't my usual self," said Gray, who was wearing a boot on his swollen ankle as he walked to the team bus after the game. "It hurt me, and it hurt the team."Even before the injury, Gray's production was down. He is averaging 9.0 points and 8.7 rebounds in his last three games after putting up 14.8 points and 10.0 rebounds in the first 26 contests. The Panthers have shot under 40 percent in each of those three games after making at least 41.8 percent of their shots in their first 25 games.They took 20 more shots than Georgetown on Saturday, but were held to a season-low 32.8 percent shooting from the field while going only 8-for-16 from the free-throw line in matching their season-low point total."It's rare that you lose a game when you get 20 more attempts and have less turnovers than the other team, but that's what happened," said Pitt coach Jamie Dixon, whose team also scored 53 points in a loss to No. 16 Louisville on Feb. 12. "It was two very good teams playing together. It just came down to the team that got to the free-throw line more."Despite the recent slump, Gray and the Panthers boast the Big East's second-best record and hope to keep their conference title hopes alive when they take on West Virginia (20-7, 8-6).After two weeks as a ranked team, the Mountaineers have lost three of their last five to drop out of the Top 25, including a 64-61 loss at Providence last Tuesday.Darris Nichols and Frank Young scored 14 points apiece but combined to miss 14 3-pointers for West Virginia, which missed 32 of its season-high 41 attempts from beyond the arc."We had some pretty good shots but didn't hit them," Nichols said. "It was just one of those days."The Mountaineers fell to 3-5 on the road, where they haven't beaten a team that currently has a winning record."This would have been a great fourth one for us," coach John Beilein said. "Everybody's fighting to get that extra win so if they don't win the Big East tournament they still get in (the NCAA tournament). I know road games are always important."The Mountaineers will have another chance Tuesday, but they'll be facing a Pittsburgh team that has won 15 of 17 at home this season. West Virginia is 1-5 in its last six trips to Pittsburgh.The Panthers won 60-47 in West Virginia on Feb. 7 behind a career-high 21 points from freshman Sam Young. Gray added 14 points and nine rebounds, and Pitt held the Mountaineers to 32.7 percent shooting from the field.
|Avg Points Allowed||61.8||62.4|