November 2, 2007

No. 20 Pitt looks different

For the fifth consecutive season and the ninth time in school history, the Pitt men's basketball team will open the 2007-08 campaign ranked in the top 25, as the USA Today/ESPN Preseason Coaches' Poll released last Friday ranked Pitt No. 20.

But while the Panthers have consistency in their preseason rankings, the team itself looks a bit different in 2007. 7'0" center Aaron Gray is gone to the NBA; in his place is 6'7" freshman center DeJuan Blair, and while he will bring some highly-anticipated athleticism to the post, it was clear on Wednesday night that there is still a lot of room to grow, and that's not a knock on its size.

On Wednesday night, the Panthers took on branch campus Pitt-Johnstown in an exhibition game at the Petersen Events Center, and while the Pitt-Oakland players were too much for their Cambria County brethren and over-powered the Mountain Cats to the tune of a 41-point victory (97-56), the relative newness of the Panthers' post players was evidenced in the 23 points scored by UPJ's 6'7" center, senior Chris Gilliam.

"We have a lot of things to do because he torched us," Blair said after the game. "He was just moving. We weren't moving that great and the help-side wasn't good. We can do a lot better, a whole lot better, and we're going to. It was only our first game playing against somebody else other than ourselves. We know what each other can do in practice; he brought a little something new to the table. We just have to work extra hard on our post defense.

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