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Tuesday, December 8, 2009
Jimmy V Classic: Pitt in search of offense

By Andy Katz

NEW YORK -- There's a good chance Jermaine Dixon will make his season debut in the late game of the Jimmy V Classic against Indiana (ESPN, 9:30 p.m. ET) at Madison Square Garden.

Dixon, the only returning starter from last season's Elite Eight Panthers, broke his foot in the offseason and has been steadily improving in practice.

Ashton Gibbs
Ashton Gibbs is averaging 16 points per game for the Panthers this season.
The Panthers desperately need Dixon's offense after managing just 15 points in the first half against New Hampshire last weekend. Point guard Ashton Gibbs hasn't been a problem. Gibbs, who led Dixon's USA Under-19 team to the gold medal in New Zealand last July, has been averaging 16 points and dishing out 2.1 assists in his role replacing Levance Fields. Fields had to be much more of a distributing point guard (with the occasional big shot late in games) with Sam Young and DeJuan Blair as his primary scoring forwards.

But Gibbs has to be thinking to score more often. He has a wing with scoring potential in Brad Wanamaker, but the Panthers need some more scoring pop.

Pitt has been grinding out games so far this season, coming back to beat Wofford in the opener, taking two overtimes to knock out city rival Duquesne last week, and then going through the ugly affair with UNH that ended with the Panthers winning 47-32.

Meanwhile, Indiana has shown plenty of signs of life of late, even though the results don't show it. IU lost all three games in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off Classic to Ole Miss, Boston University and George Mason (it's amazing to think that in the same season UCLA and Indiana went 0-3 in an eight-team field). But the Hoosiers gave Maryland fits for much of their matchup before succumbing by 12 in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge game last week in Bloomington.

Tom Crean has the Hoosiers, much like the Panthers, trying to be a defensive, physical team. Still, Indiana will need to find scorers and can't have some lines like the ones that were produced against the Terps (Derek Elston and Devan Dumes were each 2-of-10 while Verdell Jones III was 3-of-15 and the Hoosiers were a combined 7-of-26 on 3s).

Defense should be the theme of all four teams at the Jimmy V Classic. If one team gets to 70 points, that might be a story.

"They are four very good defensive teams and all make it hard for the opponent to score," said Georgetown coach John Thompson III, whose team faces Butler in the opening game (ESPN, 7 p.m. ET). "I don't know the answer to the question [if any team will get 70], but I just hope we have one more point than Butler."