Pitt ready for former Big East foe Cincinnati in Jimmy V Classic
Pitt's next game will have a familiar feeling, everything from the opponent to the venue to the event to the style of play Jamie Dixon and his Panthers anticipate.
It will be a reunion of former Big East foes when Pitt (10-0) plays Cincinnati (7-2) at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the Jimmy V Classic at Madison Square Garden.
This is the third time the Panthers have played in the event. They beat Memphis, 70-51, in 2004 and lost to Indiana, 74-66, in '09.
“When you are playing in the Jimmy V,” Dixon said, “you are going to play somebody good.”
In this case, Pitt also is playing a team it knows very well. This will be the 19th meeting between the schools in a series tied at 9-9, one that was split with home losses last season. It is their first game since the Big East breakup after Pitt, Notre Dame and Syracuse left for the ACC and Cincinnati joined the new American Athletic Conference.
“Pitt and Cincy, we've had so many bloodbaths, we decided we'd continue it as a non-league game,” Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin said. “Playing Jamie's team is always a challenge because you know they're always going to be well-prepared and going to physically compete. They're so good defensively that you've got to find ways to score.
“I like it as a non-league game because you're going to learn a lot about your team, because if you have weaknesses, they're going to exploit them.”
Cincinnati did that to Pitt in the Big East opener last New Year's Eve, using full-court pressure to hand the Panthers a 70-61 defeat at Petersen Events Center.
It was the first conference game for Pitt point guard James Robinson, an eye-opener at that.
“I could definitely feel the change,” Robinson said. “I am expecting the game to have a lot of energy, real physical, up-paced.”
The onus will be on Pitt's backcourt to stop senior guard Sean Kilpatrick, who averages 19.3 points. The Panthers know it will be an emphasis, after allowing Youngstown State's Kendrick Perry to go for 28 points Saturday and Penn State's Tim Frazier to score 27 earlier this month.
“He is basically going to attack the whole game,” Robinson said of Kilpatrick. “He is going to try and score any way he can.
“He's physical. He's going to go for the entire game, whether it be to the bucket or shooting 3s.”
Pitt avenged its loss by winning at Cincinnati, 62-52, on Feb. 9.
The Panthers are expecting another up-tempo game against the Bearcats.
“We are going to have to really focus on our defense first and allow our defense to get us going on the offensive end,” Robinson said. “I'm sure they are going to press. It's going to be a fun game.”