Pitt Notebook: Panthers join elite Big East list

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NEW YORK -- Pitt did not play in a Big East championship game until 2001, but by reaching the title game for the sixth time the Panthers now rank behind only Syracuse, Georgetown and Connecticut when it comes to championship game appearances.

Syracuse has the most title game appearances with 13 followed by Georgetown (11) and Connecticut (9).

Georgetown and Connecticut had the most wins in the championship game with six before the title game last night. Syracuse is next with five and St. John's three.

Pitt was attempting to win its second title. The first came in 2003 against Connecticut.

Quite a comeback

Pitt's comeback against Louisville tied for the second-best comeback in school history. The Panthers overcame an 11-point halftime deficit to beat the Cardinals. The biggest halftime deficit overcome was in 1983, when Pitt came back to win after trailing Saint Francis, Pa., by 12 points. The previous time Pitt came back after trailing by 11 points at halftime was 2005, when the Panthers came back to win at Connecticut, 76-66.

Before last night's game against Georgetown, Pitt had trailed at halftime in six of the previous nine games.

Who needs him?

All-American center Aaron Gray is Pitt's most valuable player and is one of the top players in the country, but the Panthers don't necessarily need a big game from him to be victorious. Gray only played 13 minutes and scored eight points in Friday's 65-59 win against Louisville because of foul trouble.

It was the eighth time this season that Gray did not score in double figures. Pitt won all eight of those games.

"If you had told me he was going to get zero rebounds and we were going to win ... I think a lot of people might have been surprised," Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said.

Foul play

Pitt attempted 72 free throws against Marquette and Louisville, compared to just 21 free throws for the Cardinals and Golden Eagles. Pitt had 31 free-throw attempts Friday, while Louisville had just four.

"We went inside and probably a lot of it had to do with the zone," Dixon said. "I thought we were really attacking the basket throughout the game. And we thought going to our zone would stop them from going to the free-throw line."

Something's Cookin'

Playing on the big stage at Madison Square Garden can be an intimidating experience. But Pitt junior Mike Cook appeared to be comfortable in his first two games at the Garden.

Cook scored 16 points against Marquette and 13 against Louisville. He also had eight rebounds against Louisville to go along with two steals and one block in 33 minutes.

"This is my first one, so I'm just excited to come out here and compete in the Big East championship," Cook said.

Ball protection

One of the biggest reasons Pitt advanced to the championship game was the way the Panthers handled the ball against Marquette and Louisville. In three regular-season games against the Cardinals and Golden Eagles the Panthers committed an average of 16 turnovers per game.

In the two games in the tournament the Panthers had seven turnovers against Marquette and six against Louisville.


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