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Wednesday, January 13, 2010
It's official: Pitt is legit

By Dana O'Neil

HARTFORD, Conn. -- Hands up, really, from Monroeville to Butler, who honest-to-goodness thought Pittsburgh was going to start the Big East atop the standings at 4-0?

If your hand is up, you're fibbing.

Yet here Pitt stands, in familiar territory: as Big East co-leaders with Villanova after beating Connecticut, 67-57.

And this isn't just smoke and mirrors. The Panthers have won three of their four in some of the most hostile away courts in the Big East: at Syracuse, at Cincinnati at Connecticut.

What's most impressive from this win is how Pitt won: it led big, gave it up, led big again, gave it up again and came back. Young teams aren't supposed to have the mental toughness to do that. Yet there was Ashton Gibbs after a disastrous stretch for the Panthers -- when they went more than nine minutes with just one field goal -- swishing a 3-pointer in transition to push Connecticut back to a four-point hole.

The Panthers still have deficiencies. They don't have a true point guard and in this conference, that can be disastrous.

Still, minus four starters from a year ago, the Panthers are leading the Big East.

So feel free to put your hands up Pittsburgh fans -- this Panthers team is legit.