Pitt men have one game to go before Big East Conference play

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The Panthers will play their last game before Big East play begins against Kennesaw State at 5 p.m. today at the Peterson Events Center.

The Owls (1-9) are coming off a tough loss at Notre Dame, 88-57.

Kennesaw State is led by Markeith Cummings, who is averaging 18 points and 3.9 rebounds per game.

By defeating Delaware State, Pitt (11-1) achieved its seventh consecutive victory and 14th straight victory at home.

The Panthers will try to remain undefeated this season against teams from the Atlantic Sun Conference after defeating North Florida, 89-47.

One of Pitt's greatest strengths this season has been the team's versatility at several positions.

Talib Zanna, one of Pitt's most improved players this season, is coming off one of his best games of the year, in which he tied his career-high 20 points and grabbed 9 rebounds against Delaware State.

Zanna, a Nigerian native, is averaging 13.3 points and 7 rebounds per game, both career highs.

Zanna believes the experience he gained last season playing both center and power forward has helped him to improve his game and become a more versatile player both offensively and defensively.

"I think it has to do with experience and the freedom from coach [Jamie] Dixon on the court and also putting a lot of time on the court in the off season," Zanna said.

Zanna also commended his two guards, Tray Woodall and James Robinson, for his recent good performance.

"We have two good guards, both pass-first guys, and when your wide open, they're going to pass it to you and I just have to keep finishing."

Pitt's defense has been one of the best surprises of the season. The Panthers are ranked seventh overall in scoring defense along with the best assist-to-turnover ratio in the NCAA.

"Right now, coach keeps emphasizing defense, defensive stance, and rotation. I think it's his No. 1 goal," Zanna said.

Dixon has challenged the team during practice not to overlook Kennesaw State and has been preparing his team mentally.

He knows the team must continue to improve every day as it nears the start of Big East play.

"I think our numbers have improved defensively, and that's been encouraging," Dixon said.

"We're playing smarter and understanding what we're trying to do. We know we have a long way to go when we start playing bigger, stronger ... more experienced teams.

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Eddy Montalvo: emontalvo@post-gazette.com. First Published December 23, 2012 5:00 AM


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