Pitt Notebook: Rebounding vital for Butler

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WASHINGTON -- Butler is not one of the best rebounding teams in the NCAA tournament. The Bulldogs rank 70th in Division I in rebounding margin, but that did not prevent them from outrebounding the No. 1 team Thursday in a Southeast Region second-round game.

Old Dominion was the best rebounding team in Division I, but the Bulldogs won the battle of the boards, 32-29, which paved the way to a 60-58 victory.

The Bulldogs had 18 offensive rebounds, including one from Matt Howard that he converted into a basket for the winner at the buzzer. They had 19 second-chance points in the game.

At 7:10 p.m. today, Butler faces Pitt, second to Old Dominion in rebounding margin. The Panthers are plus-10.8 for the season.

"It's going to have to be the exact same recipe," Howard said. "The team that wins the rebounds is probably going to win the game."

The Bulldogs are not as big as Pitt's post players, but they impressed the Panthers with their scrappy play against Old Dominion.

"That's the first thing coach said," Pitt center Gary McGhee said. "He said they're a real physical team. They might not look like it stature-wise, but the get after it. After watching that game against ODU, they're a really physical team. They get after you on the glass. They push you, they shove you, they grab you. Some of those things won't be called in the tournament."

Looking for shots

Senior guard Brad Wanamaker, Pitt's second-leading scorer, has been having trouble getting shots and points for the Panthers in recent games. Wanamaker has scored in double figures once in the past four games and had just six in Pitt's victory Thursday against UNC Asheville. He only attempted three shots from the field.

Wanamaker did have a good offensive game in the Big East Conference quarterfinal loss against Connecticut, when he notched 17 points, but he was held to three points in the regular-season finale against Villanova and seven in the victory against South Florida three days before that.

"At times, I can be more aggressive," Wanamaker said. "I just try to set my teammates up because when I'm doing that we're at our best. Sometimes it means me not taking as many shots. For the most part, I think I'm doing my job and getting other guys shots."

Wanamaker injured his the thumb on his left (non-shooting) hand before the Big East tournament, but he said Friday that it has not affected his play.

Feeding Robinson

When starting power forward Nasir Robinson scores in double figures, Pitt is 10-1. The only time the Panthers lost when Robinson scored in double figures was the Connecticut game at the Big East tournament.

Robinson scored 12 in the victory against UNC Asheville. It was the seventh time in the past 10 games that he scored 10 points or more. When Robinson has been ineffective, the Panthers tend to struggle. He had just three points in the loss at Louisville, six in the loss at St. John's and four in the loss to Notre Dame.

"We just want him to be aggressive," sophomore point guard Travon Woodall said. "We want him to make plays he's capable of making. He's been doing a great job of it. When he gets his opportunities he takes advantage of it, and we just want him to keep doing that."

Ready for prime time

When the Pitt-Butler game time was announced the Panthers got exactly what they wanted -- a night game. The Panthers, for some reason, play better at night than the afternoon.

Pitt is 22-1 this season in games that start at 6 p.m. or later. The only loss at night was to Notre Dame. The Panthers have lost three of their past five games that started in the afternoon hours.

"I didn't want to play the early game," Woodall said. "I'm happy we're playing later. All of us love all the hype. We all want to perform well with everyone watching."

Ray Fittipaldo: rfittipaldo@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1230.


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