Seton Hall-Pittsburgh Preview

Pittsburgh is coming off an impressive road win against a ranked
Big East opponent and is a few days away from hosting a highly
anticipated, top-five conference clash.

That doesn’t mean it’s likely to overlook Saturday night’s visit
from Seton Hall.

The fifth-ranked Panthers have won 46 consecutive home games
versus unranked opponents, a streak they’ll look to extend as they
face a Pirates team that has leading scorer Jeremy Hazell back.

Pitt’s home streak against teams outside the Top 25 includes 18
conference victories, but it had to go on the road to face a ranked
Big East foe Wednesday night.

Though Georgetown began the week ranked No. 22, the Panthers
likely ensured the Hoyas won’t be staying in the AP poll. Pitt
(16-1, 4-0) built a double-digit lead 10 minutes into the game en
route to a 72-57 win, with its backcourt of Ashton Gibbs, Gilbert
Brown and Brad Wanamaker outscoring Georgetown’s trio of Austin
Freeman, Chris Wright and Jason Clark 48-31.

“I thought me, Brad, Gil and Travon (Woodall), we definitely
took it as a personal challenge,” said Gibbs, who had a game-high
22 points. “I guess they were considered one of the best backcourts
in the country, and we wanted to come out and show what we had,
too.”

That was the 18th time Gibbs has scored at least 20 points, and
Pitt is 16-2 when he does so – including 4-0 against top-five
opponents.

Fourth-ranked Syracuse rolls into the Petersen Events Center on
Monday, but Gibbs and the Panthers don’t figure to be looking
ahead. One of Pitt’s losses when the junior guard had a big game
came Jan. 24 at Seton Hall (8-9, 2-3), but 14 of his 23 points came
from the free-throw line.

Gibbs missed 11 of his 15 field-goal attempts and the Panthers
shot 35.3 percent overall in a 64-61 defeat.

Pirates forward Herb Pope – once a member of Pitt coach Jamie
Dixon’s 2007 recruiting class – had 19 points and nine rebounds in
the win, but he didn’t fare so well in the rematch two weeks later.
Pitt shot 51.7 percent and was led by 23 points from Brown, while
Pope was held to nine points and fouled out of the Pirates’ 83-58
loss.

The Panthers will see a familiar face on the Pirates’ bench
Saturday. Seton Hall’s first-year coach is Kevin Willard, who
played two seasons at Pitt in the mid-90s while his father, Ralph,
coached the Panthers.

The Pirates come in with some momentum after getting a big boost
Wednesday. Hazell had a game-high 23 points in a 78-67 win at
DePaul, his first game since breaking his wrist Nov. 19 – and less
than three weeks after receiving a gunshot wound while being robbed
on Christmas.

“I didn’t know I was going to play this game,” said Hazell, a
first-team preseason All-Big East selection. “I thought I was going
to play two games after this … but I’m just happy I played
(tonight).

“I was just happy to get back with my team. When they told me I
could play, there was no holding back.”

The senior guard hasn’t had much success versus Pitt. Hazell, a
career 18.8-point scorer, has averaged 9.0 points and shot 31.8
percent in four games against the Panthers.

Seton Hall’s lone road win in 16 games against top-10 opponents
since 2000-01 came March 3, 2006, at then-No. 8 Pitt.