Monday, January 25, 2010

Pirates Bloody Panthers as Pope Reigns in Paint

College Hoops Player of the Day for Sunday, January 24, 2010

Winning on the road in any conference is a tough task, but it's especially difficult in the Big East, as the #9 Pitt Panthers found out on Sunday when they traveled to New Jersey Sunday to face the Seton Hall Pirates. The Panthers were coming off their first home loss in 3 years, and a win would be a big boost to their confidence, but the Pirates had other ideas.

After close calls against Syracuse, UConn and West Virginia, the Hall was poised to make a statement, and they did, despite leading scorer Jeremy Hazell riding the pine for most of the game due to foul issues. Hazell, who averages 22.2 points per game, saw just 16 minutes of floor time and scored only 9 points, his lowest point total since the season opener.

Picking up the slack was sophomore forward Herb Pope, who played 38 minutes, scored 19 points and ripped down 9 boards. Pope was a solid force in the paint, hitting 8 of 12 shots, mostly from point-blank range. With help from Jeff Robinson, rounding into form after missing the first eight games of the season, the Pirates were able to hold on for a 64-61 win and improve their conference mark to 3-4.

Playing solid defense for the duration of the game, the Pirates held Pitt to just 35% shooting, including holding the Panthers' leading bomber, Ashton Gibbs, to just 1-for-7 from beyond the arc. Gibbs, the game's high-scorer with 23 points, made up for his poor shooting by hitting all 14 of his free throws, but in the end it wasn't enough.

Pitt is now 15-4 (5-2 Big East) and will still be ranked when the poll results come out on Monday, but two straight losses have taken some of the swagger out of their step.

NOTABLE: A huge match-up in the Big East is slated for Monday night, when the Syracuse Orangemen and Georgetown Hoyas renew their rivalry at the Carrier Dome. 19-1 Syracuse is ranked #5; the 15-3 Hoyas are ranked #12.

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