Contrary to what some may say, this wasn't a must win for the Panthers. While a loss would have brought the winless streak to three, Pitt is still in excellent shape when it comes to making the NCAAs. There wouldn't be any question about if the team would be in and with three games left against Villanova (home), South Florida (home), and DePaul (road), the Panthers should finish 3-0 . Anything less would be a disappointment.
All of that said, though, Pitt picked up a big win here, 63-47 over St. John's. The Panthers' stock was slipping after losses to Marquette and Notre Dame and a loss here could have dropped Pitt to around an eight seed. The Panthers want to avoid the No. 6-8 seed range in my opinion. That likely gives the Panthers a pretty tough matchup in their second tournament game and makes a Sweet 16 difficult.
So what about this game? Pitt played reasonably well, I thought. Defensively, they did a great job in the second half. St. John's falling apart completely didn't hurt, either. The Red Storm shot around 30% and had nine turnovers in the second half. They were very competitive in the first half, so Steve Lavin did a good job convincing them they needed to win. But they either ran out of steam or had played ridiculously over their heads in the first half.
You hate to say one player is the difference in any game, but today it was. Tray Woodall had a huge day - maybe his best game of the year with 25 points, four rebounds, two assists, and two steals. He was unstoppable today and while Pitt doesn't need him to do that much every game, a slight boost over the 10-12 points he often gives the team would help. Nothing more to say - he went out as a senior and won Pitt this game.
One thing I was glad to see was Talib Zanna getting fewer minutes. That led to an experiment of Dante Taylor and Steven Adams playing together. Frankly, I don't know how much Jamie Dixon can afford to do that since there are no other centers on the team, but it was a welcome change. Zanna had a very modest four points and three rebounds in 15 minutes today. The message here should be pretty clear - if you're not producing, you're not playing.
Just a big, big win here. Pitt has a great chance to finish out the season 4-0 and, in my mind, get up to a five-seed heading into the Big East Tournament.