La Salle-Pittsburgh Preview
After Pittsburgh needed to rally in the second half to avoid a stunning loss in its second game, coach Jamie Dixon expressed concerns about his team's defensive performance.
It didn't take much longer for his fears to come to fruition.
Coming off a double-digit loss that ended a 58-game home non-conference winning streak, the No. 17 Panthers look to bounce back Tuesday night when they host La Salle.
Pitt (2-1) struggled on the defensive end in an 86-78 win over Rider on Nov. 13, allowing the Broncs to shoot 53.6 percent but ultimately coming back from a six-point deficit midway through the second half.
Dixon said after that victory his team had "some work to do" defensively and that the effort "better not be our best," but the Panthers responded with one of their worst defensive performances in their coach's nine-year tenure. Long Beach State came into the Petersen Events Center on Wednesday and shot 59.3 percent - the second-worst mark allowed since Dixon's been on the bench - in an 86-76 victory.
"We got beat every which way, and when you get beat like we did it is execution or could be construed as effort," Dixon said.
Pitt lost for the first time in 80 non-conference games in November and December at the Petersen Events Center, and Dixon is concerned there could be more trouble ahead if his team can't change its defensive mindset.
Heading into this month, the Panthers had only allowed a non-conference opponent to score 70 points twice at home in 28 games the past three seasons.
It's now happened as many times in their past two contests.
"We are indecisive on what to do defensively and that is slowing us down," Dixon said. "That is the bottom line.
"This was disappointing, but we recognized going in that we have to be a better team and we've got to get better defensively. We usually get better as the year goes on, and we have to do that here and now moving forward."
La Salle (2-1) proved in its latest game it can put up some points. Four days after falling 76-69 in overtime at Villanova, the Explorers shot 49.2 percent and topped James Madison 92-83 on Saturday.
The 92 points were the most La Salle had scored since a 97-88 win over Massachusetts on March 1, 2009.
"I'm just thrilled with the game," coach John Giannini said. "James Madison was a tough team. ... I'm happy with the team and that 10 guys contributed today."
Sophomore guard Tyreek Duren, who had a career-high 24 points and five assists against the Wildcats, was the biggest contributor against the Dukes, finishing with a game-high 23 points and hitting all three of his 3-point attempts.
Duren will likely be checked by Pitt's backcourt duo of Ashton Gibbs and Travon Woodall. They should be eager to bounce back after letting Long Beach State's Casper Ware score a game-high 28.
"We have to play every game like it's our last and from now on that's what we are going to do," said Gibbs, who's scored at least 20 points in all three games. "... We have to take this as a learning experience. We can't take this as a negative but as a positive almost and capitalize on it."
Pitt, which beat La Salle in the 1984 NIT in the teams' only meeting, hasn't lost consecutive home games since falling to West Virginia and Connecticut in a four-day span in February 2005.
The Explorers have lost 22 straight against ranked opponents.