Pittsburgh has struggled on the road, but a return to Madison Square Garden might be just what it needs to begin creating some momentum heading into the Big East tournament.
The No. 12 Panthers look to win for the 12th time in 16 visits to the storied arena when they face St. John’s on Saturday afternoon.
Pittsburgh (21-7, 10-5) is tied with eighth-ranked West Virginia for third in the conference, two games back of No. 7 Villanova and three behind league-leading and No. 4 Syracuse.
The Panthers might be closer to the Orange if not for a 4-4 Big East road record. Ashton Gibbs, Pitt’s leader with 16.2 points per game, has struggled in the last four road games, averaging 8.8 points on 25.6 percent shooting.
The Panthers struggled as the visitor again Wednesday, falling 68-53 to Notre Dame despite the Fighting Irish playing without Luke Harangody - second in the nation with 24.1 points per game. The defeat severely dented any chances Pitt may have had at winning the regular-season conference title.
“We got beat in pretty much every aspect,” coach Jamie Dixon said. “This is one game, one loss, but right now it feels like a number of losses, but we need to move on and get ready for St. John’s.
“It was one loss. That’s how we look at it.”
Pitt might be in ideal position to rebound with a visit to MSG, the annual host of the conference tournament.
After meeting the 13th-place Red Storm (15-12, 5-10), the Panthers will host Providence on Thursday before concluding the regular season against visiting Rutgers next Saturday. The Friars and Scarlet Knights are tied for 14th in the conference.
Pittsburgh has thrived at the Garden, winning 23 of 33 since the 2000-01 season and appearing in seven of the last nine Big East tournament title games, winning two.
The Panthers also took the last meeting with the Red Storm there, 81-57 on Jan. 23, 2008. They’ve won four in a row in the series after beating St. John’s 63-53 on Jan. 28.
The Red Storm, 4-3 at MSG, have won three of five following a season-high five-game slide. They’re coming off a 63-61 overtime loss to Marquette on Wednesday, as Jimmy Butler recovered a loose ball and hit a baseline jumper at the buzzer.
“We will continue to play the way we have been playing,” coach Norm Roberts said. “We will win our share. Some will go our way. We have to continue to play hard. I am always proud of my guys. The object is to win and we didn’t win. We have to fight back and be resilient. These guys are a good group with a lot of character.”
D.J. Kennedy, the team leader with averages of 14.7 points, 6.2 rebounds and 3.0 assists, is looking to build on another strong effort. He scored 20 points Wednesday after having 17 in a 74-58 win at South Florida last Saturday.
The junior swingman shot 3 for 11 for nine points against Pitt last month.