Invisible men show their stuff vs. Seton Hall
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Despite the brutal snowstorm that paralyzed the city, every Pitt player made it to the Petersen Events Center for the game Saturday night against Seton Hall. That was a significant improvement from the fiasco at West Virginia Wednesday night when Brad Wanamaker and Gilbert Brown lost their way to the WVU Coliseum and were no-shows in the Panthers' 70-51 loss.
Figuratively speaking, of course.
"Gil and I, we were basically invisible," Wanamaker said. "We were punching each other in the head over that game. It's not just that we didn't score. We didn't defend. We didn't rebound. We didn't box out. We didn't do anything to give the team a chance to win."
Added Brown, "We stunk."
The fellas get no argument here.
Wanamaker didn't score a point against the Mountaineers. Nor did Brown. The two started that night averaging a combined 24.1 points per game.
"What did we lose by? 19? There you go," Wanamaker said.
"Pretty hard to fathom them playing that many minutes and getting no points," Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said. "No team can overcome that. But that game is over. They've moved on and we've moved on."
Quite impressively, actually.
Pitt blew out Seton Hall, 83-58. The win was especially sweet for the Panthers. Not so much because it came against the same Seton Hall team that put a 64-61 licking on them Jan. 24. Because it came after they had lost four of five Big East Conference games, the worst run of the Dixon era, a run so bad that a ninth consecutive NCAA tournament bid for Pitt suddenly seemed to be in some jeopardy.
Wanamaker and Brown had no reason to beat each other up on this nasty winter night. Wanamaker's stats line was superb: 13 points, 6 rebounds, 7 assists, 1 turnover. Brown made 7 of his first 8 shots and finished with 23 points.
"As we go, the team goes," Wanamaker said, including fellow veteran Jermaine Dixon.
It was Dixon who probably was the biggest star of the game. He played all-out all night against Seton Hall star Jeremy Hazell, although his most impressive play probably came when he dived to save a loose ball from going out of bounds in the second half and slide a long way across the hard wood. If he had floor burns, he wasn't feeling the pain after holding Hazell -- the Big East's second-leading scorer at 23 points per game -- to two points on 1 of 7 shooting.
"The heart and soul of our team," Wanamaker called Dixon.
Clearly, Wanamaker and Brown are nearly as vital. "We're two vital pieces, two leaders on this team," Wanamaker said. That's why Brown's fast start was so huge against Seton Hall. It's also why Wanamaker's steady game made the win a lot easier than it probably should have been. His 3-point shot at the end of the shot clock might have been the most important play of the game because it gave Pitt a 44-37 lead with 16:18 remaining and left Seton Hall coach Bobby Gonzalez muttering at the heavens.
Brown had such a fine night that he quickly made the sparse crowd of 6,681 who braved the horrid weather conditions forget about his one blunder. With 3:25 left and the outcome decided, he tried a reverse dunk -- and missed.
"We were all over him," Wanamaker said. "We told him he's not a game-time dunker."
Not everyone on the Pitt bench was amused, though.
"I saw coach Dixon's face. He wasn't happy," Brown said, sheepishly.
Give the kid credit.
On Pitt's next possession, he made a 3-point shot.
"I think he wanted to get back on coach Dixon's good side," Wanamaker said, grinning.
Brown wants something else now, the same thing Wanamaker wants -- another shot at West Virginia. It's not that they're looking past Robert Morris, Pitt's opponent Monday night at the Petersen Events Center. Both went to great lengths to make that clear. It's just that they can't help but to look forward to the home game Friday night against the No. 6 Mountaineers.
"It's almost like we owe them," Brown said.
Added Wanamaker, "We got disrespected when we were down there. Totally disrespected. By their fans. By their team. They just dominated us.
"Now, we get them here in our place. We've got to get our payback."
I'm not sure Pitt is good enough to beat the terrific West Virginia team, but I do know this:
Wanamaker and Brown won't go scoreless this time. They won't be invisible.
That alone should make it some game.
First Published February 7, 2010 1:44 am