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November 7, 2010

Does Pitt play dirty or physical?

Turns out Pitt's Big East opponents don't think much of the Panthers' style of play.

Turns out the Panthers don't much care.

In the college basketball preview issue of ESPN The Magazine, Syracuse guard Scoop Jardine accused Pitt of a nefarious approach to the game.

"They play dirty," Jardine said in comments that were also published on ESPN.com, "and the refs allow it."

Naturally, Pitt players disagree.

"A lot of teams may refer to us as a dirty team, but I'd just say that we're a physical team," redshirt senior Gilbert Brown said Saturday. "Our practices are predicated on being physical and playing hard-nosed defense. So I wouldn't say we're dirty; I think we're just a physical team.

"Some people don't like a physical game, but it's basketball. It's a man's game."

Pitt senior guard Brad Wanamaker knows Jardine well. Both were four-star recruits in the class of 2007 and two of the best high school players in Philadelphia that year, although Wanamaker was named the Philadelphia Daily News Player of the Year and the Philadelphia Inquirer Southeastern Pennsylvania Player of the Year.

Perhaps most importantly, Wanamaker led his Roman Catholic team to a championship win over Jardine's Neumann-Goretti squad in the 2007 Philadelphia Catholic League playoffs.

"I didn't see [Jardine's comments]," Wanamaker said. "I might have to hit him up on that one. We grew up together and played against each other a lot in high school. He was actually my rival.

"I'm going to have to hit him up on that and let him know we're not a dirty team, just physical. We play hard throughout the game, so [the refs] just adjust to our game."

The Panthers, who have been ranked as high as fourth in national preseason rankings and were picked by the Big East coaches as the preseason favorites to win the conference, weren't exactly playing their hardest in Thursday night's 73-56 win over Indiana University of Pennsylvania, the team's final exhibition game before Monday's season opener against Rhode Island at the Petersen Events Center.

After the IUP win, Wanamaker said that the Panthers "got outworked." But on Saturday, he said the situation had been rectified.

"I guess we learned our lesson from IUP," Wanamaker said. "We came with energy and got after each other and got a little bit more physical (in practice on Saturday). Scoop said we're a dirty team, but in the last game we didn't play like a dirty team. Today in practice we got after each other.

"When you talk Pitt basketball, we're usually the team that outworks somebody else. That's something we want to get back to."

Wanamaker earned his own distinction in ESPN's college basketball preview. In a poll of Big East players, he was named the second-biggest trash-talker in the conference behind St. John's forward Justin Burrell.

"I don't know about all of that; Brad's not really a trash-talker," Brown said. "In the midst of the game, in the heat of the moment, with guys mouthing off at you, sometimes you tend to talk back. It's an emotional game; you can't help but be involved with it, whether it be guys bumping each other or just talking back and forth."

Wanamaker was amused when told of his recognition.

"I don't know how I got to be number two; that's crazy," he said. "I just go out there and play. I may scream 'and-one' but it's just my emotions. I wouldn't say I'm a trash-talker, though.

"I think it's just Philly players, in general. We get excited when we make good plays, and maybe in the heat of the moment we may say some things."







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