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Panthers prepared for Marquette

| Friday, Feb. 15, 2013, 11:52 p.m.
Pitt's Tray Woodall and Seton Hall's Brian Oiver fight for a ball during the first half this past Monday at Petersen Events Center. (Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review)

Pitt can only wonder what would have happened against Marquette had Tray Woodall not sustained a concussion a few minutes into the first half.

The Panthers can wonder whether they would have lost, 74-67, in overtime to the Golden Eagles on Jan. 12 at Petersen Events Center, or if there would have been a different outcome.

“That's hard to say, really,” Pitt freshman point guard James Robinson said.

“Obviously, if Tray was on the court for us, we may have won. We may not have won. We ended up losing the game regardless, so we need to make sure everyone stays healthy this time and we come up with the win.”

Pitt has won seven of eight games since, and the No. 16 Panthers (20-5, 8-4 Big East) want to prove how much they have improved when they play No. 18 Marquette (17-6, 8-3) at 1 p.m. Saturday at Bradley Center in Milwaukee.

“We feel we're a better team now than we were then, but we've got to show that and put that out on the floor,” Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said. “We've got to guard the penetration and rebound. We got outrebounded the last game, but I made it clear to the guys that we haven't won many games when we were outrebounded.”

Not only did Marquette hold a 38-33 rebounding edge, but Pitt also had no answer for Golden Eagles guard Vander Blue, who made 9-of-10 free throws and scored 22 points.

Blue, a 6-foot-4 junior, leads Marquette in scoring at 14.6 points a game. Stopping his dribble penetration will be key.

“He's a guy that's going to take his shots. He's going to get shots up and get opportunities,” Dixon said.

“We've got to make him take tough, guarded and low-percentage shots rather than what he does best, which is get to the basket.”

Pitt shot 13 of 26 from the foul line, and the Golden Eagles led the entire game before Lamar Patterson made a 3-pointer at the buzzer to send it to overtime. Marquette outscored Pitt, 17-10, in the extra period.

The Panthers know they are a different team with Woodall, who leads them in scoring (10.9), assists (5.4) and steals (1.4) and became the seventh player in school history to reach 1,000 points and 500 assists.

“It means a lot. It's to our advantage having him back,” Robinson said. “He's been through battles in the Big East. He's our leader out there. He carries us most times throughout the game, so having him back is going to be a great advantage.”

Dixon watched the Marquette film multiple times this week and believes another major difference is that the Panthers had to use Trey Zeigler at point guard for stretches because Robinson was in foul trouble.

“It was a completely different rotation than we've ever had,” Dixon said. “It wasn't a game where we felt we put the guys in the position we wanted to have them in. And it was an overtime game, an obviously close game that could've gone either way.

“I think we've found our rotation. I think we've understood what we're trying to do a little bit better. We've gotten better.”

When asked if that makes it easier to expect a different outcome, Robinson said Pitt players can only wonder.

“I don't know about easier, but I do know it's going to be tough for them to beat us a second time,” Robinson said. “We're prepared, and we're up for the challenge.”

Kevin Gorman is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at kgorman@tribweb.com or via Twitter @KGorman_Trib.

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