Pitt coach Jamie Dixon has set a number of school records in his nine-year tenure as head coach. Now the successful coach who twice set the school record for victories in a season is perilously close to setting one mark he does not want to hold.
Pitt has lost eight consecutive games. Three more and the Panthers will set the record for most consecutive losses in school history at 11.
Pitt's best opportunity to break the long losing skid is tonight in a Big East Conference game against struggling Providence (12-8, 1-6) at Petersen Events Center. If the Panthers (11-9, 0-7) lose to the Friars, the odds would lean toward breaking the record because the next two games are against No. 9 Georgetown and at surging West Virginia.
- Matchup: Providence (12-8, 1-6 Big East) vs. Pitt (11-9, 0-7), 7 p.m. today, Petersen Events Center.
- Root Sports. KDKA-FM (93.7), www.pittsburghpanthers.com .
- Pitt: Coming off 73-62 home loss to Louisville. ... Eight-game losing streak matches the longest in 18 seasons. ... Sophomore F Lamar Patterson (9.1 ppg, 5.6 rpg) leads the team with 66 assists. ... Freshman G John Johnson (5.5 ppg) leads the team in 3-point shooting percentage (22 of 47, .468).
- Providence: Coming off 79-72 home loss to Marquette. ... Only victory in league play came against Louisville by 31 points. ... Led by Vincent Council (16.2 ppg, 4.3 rpg), Bryce Cotton (14.8 ppg, 2.9 rpg) and Gerard Coleman (14.4 ppg, 5.4 rpg). ... Ed Cooley is in his first season as head coach.
- Hidden stat: Pitt's past two games against Providence -- both victories -- have been decided by four points or fewer. The Friars have lost nine games by four points or fewer in Big East play the past two seasons.
Pitt has lost 10 consecutive games twice before. The Panthers lost 10 in a row in 1968-69 en route to a 4-20 record. They also lost 10 in a row over the span of two seasons from 1993-95. They lost the final nine games of Paul Evans' final season in 1993-94 and the first game of Ralph Willard's tenure in 1994-95.
"We're going hard at practice every day," sophomore forward J.J. Moore said. "Coach is telling us to believe. We're trying to find the flaws, trying to find out what's going on. We're competing every day."
The Panthers are coming off a 73-62 home loss Saturday to Louisville in which the Cardinals converted 70 percent of their shots in the second half. That performance came after two encouraging showings on the road in losses against Marquette and Syracuse.
"This is the first time it ever happened to me in my life," said senior forward Nasir Robinson, who previously only had to endure one two-game losing streak in his time at Pitt. "It happens in life sometimes. It's a stage in life. You just have to move on. Once we get the first game, we're going to turn it around and get it back to normal."
Dixon identified Robinson as one of the team's leaders who is doing his best to keep the team's spirits up in the midst of the losing streak. Robinson said all the team needs is a shot of confidence that would come with a victory.
"It's been tough," he said. "We've been playing hard, playing better. It's the little things that have been hurting us -- not boxing out, the other team getting second chances and scoring, us making turnovers, foul shots. We've been concentrating heavy on those things in practice."
Dixon said he is not concerned with the team's frame of mind. He said practices have been intense and the recent games are evidence that the team is competing hard.
"It's tough to lose, there's no question about it," Dixon said. "But it's not like they've come out and not responded. We've come out and played good. Whether it was foul trouble or new guys in [the lineup], fatigue ... we're just not doing it at the level we need to. They're committed to getting this thing fixed. We need to do it as a group and we need to do it individually."
The question is how the team will respond if the losses continue to mount, especially if Providence, which has lost six of its first seven Big East games, comes into Petersen Events Center and beats the Panthers.
"We're playing hard," Dixon said. "We need to play better. We're focused on one game and that's what we've always done. If we come out and play hard and are in every game I have to think their psyche has shown that it's good. It just hasn't ended in a win."
Ray Fittipaldo: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @rayfitt1.