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.