Jan. 23, 2005
When Pittsburgh was down 17 points in the first half at Connecticut on Saturday night, it looked like the Panthers would match last year's Big East loss total of three.
Chevy Troutman and Carl Krauser had other ideas.
Pittsburgh cut the margin to 11 by halftime, and made a strong run early in the second half en route to a shocking 76-66 victory. This was the same Panthers team that opened the season 10-0 but then lost three of five games heading into Saturday night at Gampel Pavilion.
This game could be the defining moment if the Panthers come on strong. Remember, Pittsburgh suffered tough defeats to Bucknell and Georgetown at home, as well as a stunning defeat to St. John's at Madison Square Garden during its spiral.
Several times this season, Pittsburgh failed to sustain late leads. Against Connecticut, it was the Troutman show in the second half as he scored 25 of his 29 points after halftime.
Coach Jamie Dixon's kids showed resiliency, guts, heart and pride. It all came against a Connecticut team that was ready to play and a crowd that was in a frenzy with more students on campus due to a snowstorm that left more than 2,000 season-ticket holders donating their seats back to the university. College GameDay was there, too, to get the crowd going. Gampel was rocking and rolling.
The Huskies came out and looked great as Rashad Anderson broke out of his slump with 16 first-half points. But Josh Boone and Rudy Gay were held to a total of eight points. In the second half, the Panthers went back to their physically tough brand of ball, especially on the defensive side. Pittsburgh beat the team that I believe has the best baseline beauties in America.
Chevy became an All-Rolls Royce player in that second half, and Krauser, who predicted a Pittsburgh W when I saw him at the shootaround, responded at the foul line by making 10-of-11 free throws. Krauser played the last nine minutes with four fouls, yet he handled the ball effectively and made good decisions.
Krauser came over late in the game and reminded me and play-by-play man Brad Nessler about his prediction.
Now Pittsburgh gets a week off before a home game against Syracuse on Saturday (ESPN, 7 p.m. ET).The Orange handed the Panthers their first-ever loss at Petersen Events Center (now Pitt is 44-3 there). It should be an intense battle when coach Jim Boeheim and Co. come to town.
Dick Vitale coached the Pistons and the University of Detroit before broadcasting ESPN's first college basketball game in 1979. Send a question to Vitale for possible use on ESPNEWS.