So, has Pitt started to find its footing after getting smacked in the mouth by Cinci and Rutgers? Was Georgetown more along the lines of what can be expected, or was it simply that the Hoyas were the perfect match-up for Pitt? There is an awareness that they have to show that was the norm.
…Dixon has been emphasizing to his players why they were so successful against Georgetown. He said that is the key to building a winning streak.
“We want them to recognize why,” Dixon said. “We watch film to show them what they didn’t do well, but we wanted to watch film of why they did things well, show the things we have to continue to do and improve on. There are not many wins like that on the road. We have to see how we respond to it on Saturday. Marquette won two close games that speaks to how good they are.”
Marquette (11-3) brings a 2-0 Big East record into the game after home victories against Connecticut and Georgetown. The Golden Eagles beat Connecticut in overtime and Georgetown by one point.
Pitt also has the looming issue of a back-loaded schedule in the conference. So they can’t afford the luxury of having off-games against teams in the middle and bottom of the conference. Cinci and Rutgers used up the quota.
The players and coaches talk of practices picking up intensity after the losses.
“Those few days in practice, we were getting after it aggressively,” senior center Dante Taylor said. “Coaches weren‘t calling (fouls), just letting (us) play.”
Redshirt freshman forward Durand Johnson liked it.
“We just felt like enough was enough,” he said. “We just had to get back to the way the normal Pitt team was, being aggressive and getting after it, and stop letting teams get after us and getting us on our heels.”
Johnson said Pitt, which opened the season 12-1 before losing to Cincinnati and Rutgers, was developing bad habits.
“Sometimes, you come out in practice, you might be lazy, you might be beat up and sore,” he said. “The old saying, you practice how you play. When we practice lousy and don‘t get after it, we come out with (losses). And we did that at the beginning of the Big East.”
With Trey Zeigler still struggling to find himself on this team, Durand Johnson has gotten more opportunities and taken advantage of them.
Marquette has gotten off to a 2-0 start in the Big East, but it comes with a caveat. They were both home games. The Golden Eagles haven’t won a road game this season — granted they have only played two losing to Florida and Wisconsin-Green Bay — so they have something to prove.
“Good teams win at home,” coach Buzz Williams said. “But all we have done is hold serve. You’re supposed to win at home. The great teams win on the road. Now we have nine chances. That will determine if we’re going to play in some kind of tournament other than the Big East tournament.”
At least the Golden Eagles have done the prep work for this opportunity to keep their early foothold in the Big East.
On New Year’s night they beat Connecticut in overtime. Then on Saturday, they took No. 15 Georgetown inside the final seconds to win, 49-48.
It’s not often that a team gets such disparate competition in the matter of a week.
To overcome the Huskies, Marquette had to contain speedy guards. To beat Georgetown, it was all about preparing for the Princeton offense that is rarely seen anymore.
“We’re thankful for the first week we had,” Williams said. “But we haven’t had any success thus far on the road, and I don’t know if starting at Pitt changes those odds. They have thoroughly dominated us during my tenure in the Big East at home. “
Hopefully Pitt continues that today. It’s a nooner on ESPNU.