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Pitt's Robinson riding hot streak

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By John Grupp
Sunday, Feb. 5, 2012
 

Nasir Robinson is one of the smallest starting power forwards in major college basketball, generously listed at 6-foot-5.

But the Pitt senior proves that two good hands can be worth a half-foot.

Robinson uses an uncanny ability to finish with his non-dominant left hand, along with instincts and timing, to convert amid much taller interior players.

"I don't think people realize he's ambidextrous," point guard Tray Woodall said. "He's just one of those guys."

Robinson is a remarkable 13 for 13 from the field in the past two games, despite going against frontlines that included 6-10 Henry Sims of Georgetown and 6-8 Kevin Jones of West Virginia.

Robinson will try to continue his perfect streak when the surging Panthers (14-9, 3-7 Big East) host his hometown team, Villanova (10-12, 3-7), at 2 p.m. today at Petersen Events Center.

The 225-pound Robinson said he's feeling as healthy as he has all season. His surgically repaired right knee was drained a couple of days ago -- he undergoes the procedure a few times a week -- and the results were relieving.

"When they drained it, it was the most fluid they got out all year," he said. "It kind of felt good. I'm bending it more and working on my strength. It's feeling good. It's not hurting. No stiffness."

Robinson missed two practices earlier in the week but returned for Friday's workout. He felt so well, he spent another half-hour or so following practice taking extra work in the gym.

Robinson is shooting a Big East-leading 61.2 percent from the field. He went 9 for 9 against Georgetown while scoring a season-high 23 points and went 4 for 4 against West Virginia in 25 foul-plagued minutes.

"I think he's become a little bit more patient during this stretch run," coach Jamie Dixon said. "He's let shots come to him rather than search them out."

Robinson is adept at finding space under the basket and taking a speedy shot. He developed his left hand as a youngster growing up in Chester. The one-handed drills at age 10 began years of practice.

"Put your right hand behind your back and dribble," he said. "I worked on it. Now, it's almost dominant."

Woodall said opposing players might underestimate Robinson's ability to finish, especially with his "off" hand.

"He dunks with his left hand," Woodall said. "Everything is pretty much with his left hand. Defenders don't realize that. Most of the shots he finishes are with his left hand, but he shoots the basketball with his right. Since I've known him, he's been making those types of shots."

Robinson had 15 points and seven rebounds last season when Pitt snapped Villanova's 46-game winning streak at the Pavilion with a 57-54 win. He also kept his cool when Wildcats forward Isaiah Armwood gave him a sneaky punch in the left eye. Armwood, who drew a technical, has since transferred to George Washington.

Pitt, which swept Villanova last season, is 8-0 against the Wildcats in Pittsburgh dating back 16 years. Coach Jay Wright said playing at Pitt is a tough "three-way combination."

"Their fans are awesome, they have very good coaching and very good talent," he said. "That combination makes it really tough. You never go out there and it's a poor crowd. You never go out there to face a bad team or a team that isn't prepared."

Additional Information:

Panthers game day

Villanova at Pitt

2 p.m., Petersen Events Center

ESPN/KDKA-FM (93.7), Pitt Radio Network

Records: Villanova 10-12, 3-7 Big East; Pitt 14-9, 3-7

Line: Pitt by 8

Series: Villanova leads, 32-30

Of note: Pitt has won eight in a row against Villanova at home, dating to 1996.

Players to watch

Villanova: Maalik Wayns, Jr., G -- Second in the Big East in scoring at 18.4 points per game.

Pitt: Dante Taylor, Jr., C -- Shooting 53 percent from the field and 80 percent from the free-throw line in the past four games.

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