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Pitt senior center Taylor struggling to recover from injury

| Sunday, Dec. 23, 2012, 12:01 a.m.
Pitt forward Dante Taylor plays against Oakland at Petersen Events Center Nov. 2012. Chaz Palla | Tribune Review

Pitt plays the final game on its nonconference schedule Sunday against Kennesaw State, and it could be the second game in a row without senior center Dante Taylor.

The 6-foot-9 Taylor did not play in Wednesday's win over Delaware State because of a bruised heel. He practiced for a brief time Saturday but remains questionable.

Taylor didn't immediately mention the injury suffered against Bethune-Cookman on Dec. 15 but alerted trainers and began receiving treatment the following morning. His absence already has lasted longer than coach Jamie Dixon said they anticipated.

“We're trying to figure out why it's not healing, why it's not getting better,” Dixon said Friday. “He's been in a lot of pain. We tried him on Wednesday for shoot-around, and he was really in a lot of discomfort and couldn't do much at all. We knew he wasn't going to be able to play.”

Taylor is averaging 5.1 points and 5.1 rebounds this season coming off the bench behind freshman Steven Adams. Taylor scored a season-high 16 points against North Florida on Dec. 8 and had six points and a season-high 11 rebounds against Bethune-Cookman, the game in which he was injured.

Junior forward Talib Zanna played more at center in Taylor's absence Wednesday and will do the same again on Sunday, if necessary. Wing Lamar Patterson would see more time at power forward.

“We don't really have any other option than that,” Dixon said. “We always thought that would be a possibility at some point, whether it was foul trouble with one of those guys or an injury with one of those guys. If we have everyone else, I think we'll be fine.”

The Panthers were also without redshirt freshman forward Durand Johnson at practice Friday. He was limited in Wednesday's game because of a hamstring issue and was sick Friday.

Pitt's final test before facing No. 11 Cincinnati on New Year's Eve shouldn't be too difficult, which could cause Taylor to be better served watching from the bench. The Owls (1-10) have dropped nine in a row, including an 87-57 loss to Notre Dame on Wednesday.

“We just have to go and play the way we play,” Zanna said. “You can't just because it's Kennesaw State think it's a mid-major or whatever. We just have to play with 100 percent effort, as if they're Cincinnati.”

Karen Price is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at kprice@tribweb.com.

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