The juice was back in Madison Square Garden as the Red Storm upset the Panthers, 60-59, on the final play of the game as Dwight Hardy looked to have stepped out-of-bounds on the base line, but never the less tip-toed his way around traffic for the lay-in. The loss for the #4 Pittsburgh Panthers proved yet again how strong the Big East conference has been this year and over the course of the last few years. Head coach Jamie Dixon has reiterated to his squad that you must bring your “A” game every night in Big East play. In Saturday’s contest the Panthers found center Gary McGhee in foul trouble as the Red Storm were able to get to the free throw line more often in the second half.
Overall it has been an outstanding season for Dixon’s team. Pittsburgh is 24-3 overall and 12-2 in the Big East. Ashton Gibbs is the Panther’s leading scorer averaging 16.7 points-per-game as he had been out with a knee injury, but looks to be coming back soon for Pittsburgh. The Panthers remained the #4 seed in the AP poll this week and fell to #6 in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll. Dixon feels there is still room for improvement for his team and they look to land back on the right foot in Big East play on Thursday against West Virginia.
Jamie Dixon joined 93.7 the Fan in Pittsburgh with the Seibel, Starkey, and Miller Show to discuss his opinion on the Pittsburgh Panthers body of work this season, what was it that St.John’s did to beat Pittsburgh last Saturday, did he think Gary McGee being in foul trouble hurt his team the most in the loss on Saturday, what was his opinion on the final play of the game with Dwight Hardy’s foot on the baseline and what do the Panthers need to improve on in order to win it all.
What do you think of your body of work overall this season in the Big East?
“Umm good obviously. I mean we are in first place in a pretty good league. I think we can all agree to that. We’re playing very good basketball and we’re getting ready for our next one, so you know I think we’ve done some good things and we need to improve as always, but guys are working hard, so yeah we’re getting ready for Thursday. West Virginia will be a big game for us.”
Where was it that St.John’s got you on Saturday? Was there something you could take back if you could?
“Well obviously the last play. I mean we lost there. We were up there pretty much the whole second half and obviously they made a tough shot at the end, but we did a lot of good things. I wish we could have out-rebounded them. That’s something that we’ve done all year long. We lead the country in rebounding and came out even on the boards and I think that was something we needed to get done. We didn’t do that and obviously getting to the free throw line. They got there far more times than we did in the second half. That was something we do real well too. We get to the free throw line more than our opponents. So those are the two things, but you know we lost to a good team on a last second play. That’s a matter of inches as we all know and I guess was seen afterwards, but you know that’s how it goes in a good league. You gotta play well every night and I think that’s what makes our league so interesting because there are so many good teams and you can play one really good team and you could go play another really good team and play another really good team and you can’t even have a breakdown for even a stretch. That’s what exciting about the Big East and why it is the best conference.”
Do you think Gary McGhee being in foul trouble hurt your team the most in the loss on Saturday to the Red Storm?
“You know we really had everyone in foul trouble. I mean when you have twenty-eight fouls called on you there is enough to go around and that was the thing that I think we had to do a better job of. Again I think if you look at it we outscored them by a large margin in the field, but they outscored us from the free throw line and really we just had a number of guys in foul trouble. We’re rotating guys in different spot throughout for the entire game because we were in foul trouble early and late, so you know it’s going to happen. Usually it happens more so on the road and that was the case there, so for us Gary McGhee played good. We kind of had the matchup we wanted to be honest and at end if you’re talking about the last play of course I think we had them right where we wanted them. We kept them to the side, forced him to the baseline behind the backboard and you really couldn’t defend it any better than really what we had. The kid [Dwight Hardy] made a great shot and somehow found some room to get it off.”
What was your opinion on the final play of the game? Was Dwight Hardy’s foot on the baseline there from your vantage point?
“Well it doesn’t really matter, that’s kind of how we look at it. You know we can sit here and talk about this and that and at the end of the day we can’t hide the things that we need to do better and the things we were deficient in and so our approach is to really focus on the thing we can control. That’s again rebounding that we didn’t do the job we needed to do. We’re not going to blame someone for the things we didn’t do.”
What does this team need to improve on here at the end of the season?
“I think we’re defending better and that’s been a good thing. We’ve really been trying to improve in that area. Just perimeter defense, we’ve got to continue to guard ball screens really well, which I think we have. We’ve done a real good job. We had a stretch where we weren’t good enough. We’re doing that. Taking care of the ball I think that’s another thing we’re really good at. All these things I’m telling you we’re at the top of the country in doing, but we just need to have them there every single good, but over the long run we’ve been as good as our record indicates, but in one game if you have a slight drop in any of those things it could really come out. Like I said the rebounding thing was we lead the country in yet we didn’t get it done against St.John’s on Saturday.”