Coach Jamie Dixon is hoping Pittsburgh’s first loss of the season serves as a learning experience. The Panthers’ next opponent will likely provide a much simpler lesson.
No. 8 Pittsburgh is looking to improve in nearly every facet and extend its home winning streak over non-conference foes to 55 against Maryland-Eastern Shore on Saturday night.
The Panthers (10-1) saw their season-opening winning streak halted with an 83-76 loss to then-No. 11 Tennessee last Saturday. Pitt struggled on both ends of the court, making a season-low 40.7 percent of its shots while allowing season highs in scoring and shooting (56.3).
The Panthers are among the best offensive teams in the Big East, shooting 48.0 percent and tying Providence for a conference-high 81.0 points per game.
Dixon feels learning from last week’s loss is key to moving forward.
“It has to be a learning experience for us,” he said. “Our kids can use the different things that happened in different ways. Anything you can as coaches or players is to use these things as motivation or a positive. I think that’s how most coaches would handle a situation.”
Pitt isn’t likely to find itself in a similar situation against the Hawks (2-7), who have been outscored by an average of 29.0 points while shooting 34.1 percent during their three-game road losing streak.
The Panthers shouldn’t have much trouble extending their 54-game home winning streak versus non-conference opponents after last Saturday’s defeat came at the new Consol Energy Center - deemed a neutral site.
They’re outscoring opponents by an average of 22.2 points during the winning streak at on-campus Petersen Events Center since last losing there to Bucknell on Jan. 2, 2005. After facing Maryland-Eastern Shore, Pittsburgh will host American on Wednesday before entering Big East play.
Ashton Gibbs will be seeking a much better start after missing his first nine shots before hitting his final four to finish with 15 points against the Volunteers. The junior guard leads the Panthers with 17.2 points per game.
Re-establishing its dominance in the paint would also help Pitt bounce back. The team is among the best in the nation in rebounding, averaging 44.0 - 15.1 more than its opponents - but was outrebounded 34-32 last weekend.
“We have to outrebound teams,” Dixon said.
The Panthers took the only meeting with the Hawks on Dec. 27, 1997, and have won all 18 meetings with teams from the Mid-Eastern Conference.
Maryland-Eastern Shore is looking to rebound from another big defeat, falling 90-56 to Evansville last Saturday while shooting 36.7 percent. That performance was actually an improvement from two days prior when the Hawks shot a season-low 25.9 percent - 3 for 18 from beyond the arc - in an 81-39 loss to Old Dominion.
Tyler Hines will try to build on his first double-double, getting 11 points and 11 rebounds last Saturday. The junior forward is averaging 7.2 points and a team-leading 7.0 boards.
Since 1996, the Hawks have lost their last nine games to ranked opponents by an average of 36.7 points.
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