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Pitt endures disheartening Senior Night with loss to South Florida

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By John Grupp
Monday, Feb. 20, 2012

Senior Night at Pitt went like so many other games this season.

The Panthers started slow. They trailed at halftime. They finished slow. And they lost.

"As you know, it's devastating in the locker room," Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said. "The players are extremely disappointed."

Sophomore forward J.J. Moore had the best game of his Pitt career, but South Florida beat Pitt for the second time in 12 days, this time 56-47, on Sunday night at Petersen Events Center.

Senior forward Nasir Robinson fought to control his emotions during the postgame news conference in his second-to-last home game in front of his family.

Ashton Gibbs, the team's other senior, scored a season-low two points — his second consecutive rough outing against USF — on 1 of 7 shooting. Junior Tray Woodall had more turnovers (three) than points (two).

"This was not their best game," Dixon said of his starting backcourt.

Pitt (15-13, 4-11 Big East), which saw its losing streak extended to four games, managed one field goal in an 8:55 span late in the second half after cutting an 11-point deficit to 42-39 with 9:23 to play.

Pitt, which missed 11 of its first 12 shots, trailed, 15-4, eight minutes into the game and 28-27 at halftime. South Florida (17-10, 10-4), trying to build a NCAA Tournament-worthy resume, opened the second half on an 8-0 run en route to its fourth win in a row.

"I know maybe USF isn't a sexy name around the country, but 10 wins in this conference is 10 wins in this conference," USF coach Stan Heath said. "We're not satisfied, but (we) should be in the big (NCAA Tournament) discussion nationally for what our guys are doing. We've won games and that should have some meaning as well, but it does motivate us."

Pitt, which entered the week fifth in the nation in rebounding margin, was outrebounded, 36-30, by the bigger Bulls. The Panthers haven't outrebounded any of their past four opponents. Pitt has lost as many games at the Pete this season (seven) as in the previous six seasons combined (101-7).

USF, which outmuscled Pitt while shooting 60.5 percent in a 63-51 victory over the Panthers two weeks ago, relied on freshman Anthony Collins in the rematch. The 6-foot-1 guard scored a career-high 22 points on 8 of 10 shooting.

"It was a tough one," Robinson said. "They outworked us tonight."

The only bright spot Moore, who scored a career-high 21 points, including five dunks. Moore was 8 of 14 from the field, and freshman John Johnson was 3 of 5; the rest of the team was a combined 7 for 33.

"This is definitely a game I can build on," Moore said. "I tried to build up a lot of energy off the bench and try to get the win, but we fell short."

Said Dixon, "J.J. has been playing better and better. He's played better defense. He's rebounded better, and that's why he played more and more."

Robinson added nine points and a game-high 11 rebounds. In two games this season against the Bulls, Gibbs is shooting 19 percent (3 for 16) — 0 for 2 from 3-point range.

"It was a mix of them playing tough defense and at the same time, me missing a couple open shots," Gibbs said.

Moore's steal and dunk cut USF's lead to 42-39 with 9:23 to play, but Toarlyn Fitzpatrick hit a 3-pointer to make it 45-39. Pitt had only one field goal — Johnson's layup with 6:11 to play — during an 8:55 span.

Moore had scored one point or fewer in four of Pitt's past six games and hadn't scored more than 10 points in a game since Dec. 20.

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