Pittsburgh-St. John’s Preview

Pittsburgh needed a little extra push in its most recent victory

to remain the nation’s lone unbeaten road team. The return of its

leading scorer may provide all the motivation it needs against a

tough St. John’s squad.

Ashton Gibbs is expected to play for the No. 4 Panthers as they

travel to Madison Square Garden on Saturday to face the Red Storm,

who are taking on their 10th ranked opponent this season.

Gibbs, averaging 16.3 points, injured his knee Feb. 5 against

Cincinnati and missed the last three games.

Pittsburgh (24-2, 12-1) struggled with lowly South Florida on

Wednesday but pulled away for a 67-55 win after assistant coach

Brandin Knight gave the Panthers a piece of his mind during a

timeout.

They responded with a 14-2 run for their 14th win in 15 games as

Brad Wanamaker and Nasir Robinson led Pitt with 13 points

apiece.

“We went into the huddle and Brandin Knight … told us we

weren’t playing our hardest – but he said it in different words,”

guard Travon Woodall said. “I just went out there and tried to make

a hustle play.”

The win followed road victories over then-No. 25 West Virginia

and then-No. 9 Villanova without Gibbs, moving Pitt to 6-0 away

from home. Coach Jamie Dixon has been pleased with the team’s play

without its top scorer, but he said no one could replace what Gibbs

brings.

“He’s a good shooter, and … there’s no free agent or no waiver

wire pick-up of a guy who does what he does,” Dixon said. “Nobody

had to change how they played; we just had to do what we do, and do

it right.”

It may have to be the same story against St. John’s, which has

already beaten three top 10 teams at MSG.

The Red Storm have won five of six and built on an 89-72 home

win Feb. 10 against then-No. 10 Connecticut with back-to-back

victories on the road. St. John’s beat Cincinnati 59-57 on Sunday

and Marquette 80-68 on Tuesday.

“I am really proud of our kids to be able to win two games in a

three-day stretch, which is very difficult to do in the Big East,”

first-year coach Steve Lavin told the school’s official

website.

“Coming into (Tuesday’s) game we talked about it simulating NCAA

tournament conditions. The quick turnaround time and having to play

two high-quality opponents like Cincinnati and Marquette gives you

the opportunity to rehearse for NCAA tournament conditions.”

Saturday will be another opportunity for St. John’s to improve

on its already impressive tournament resume, which also includes

victories against then-No. 13 Georgetown, then-No. 9 Notre Dame and

then-No. 3 Duke.

The Red Storm are 4-5 against Top 25 teams, with each victory

coming at home. A win Saturday would give them their ninth Big East

victory, a number St. John’s hasn’t reached since going 9-7 in

2001-02.

Senior guard Dwight Hardy scored 28 points against Marquette and

is averaging 27.8 over his last four games.

Pittsburgh has won the last five meetings, with St. John’s last

victory coming Jan. 21, 2006, at MSG – a 55-50 upset of the

then-No. 9 Panthers.