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Original Issue

7 Pittsburgh With five returning starters and a sparkling new arena, the scrappy Panthers are moving up in the world

As if having five starters returning from one of the best teams
in school history wasn't enough to stir excitement in the Steel
City, the Panthers will also be playing their home games this
season in the gleaming Petersen Events Center, a spanking-new
$96.4 million, 12,500-seat on-campus facility. Yet, as impressive
as the arena is, it seems incongruous with both the blue-collar
town it's located in and the ugly-duckling team that won a
school-record 29 games and advanced to the Sweet 16, the first
Pitt team to do that since 1974. "We weren't always pretty, but
we were tough and played extremely well together," coach Ben
Howland says. "Our biggest challenge will be to recapture that

How scrappy were the Panthers? Well, they were second to Virginia
Tech in the the rough-and-tumble Big East in rebounding margin
(+6.4) even though their leading rebounder was a 6'4" swingman,
Jaron Brown (6.1 boards a game), and their best defensive
rebounder was 6-foot point guard Brandin Knight (4.0 a game).
Their strength and speed make up for what they lack in size, but
when needed, Howland can go to his bench for wide-bodies like
6'10", 280-pound junior center Toree Morris and 6'6", 265-pound
senior Ontario Lett, who takes up so much room under the basket
that he's been fondly dubbed Lake Ontario. Together, the Panthers
combined to lead the conference in scoring defense (60.9 points a
game). "Defense is all about pride," says junior guard Julius
Page, one of the Pittsburgh top defenders. "I know I'm
embarrassed if someone scores on me."

Making the offense go is Knight, who appears to be fully
recovered from the arthroscopic surgery he had on July 2 to
remove loose cartilage from his right knee. Knight, the brother
of Memphis Grizzlies guard Brevin Knight, not only led the team
in scoring (15.6 points a game) but was also second in the Big
East in assists (7.2). "It's like he has eyes everywhere," Page

With every home game already sold out, there will be lots of eyes
on Knight and his teammates this season. --S.D.

COLOR PHOTO: BOB ROSATO ON THE PROWL Page and the Panthers aren't always pretty on offense, but their defense is what wins games.



SF Jaron Brown 6'4" Jr. 6.1 rpg
PF Chevon Troutman 6'7" So. 55.7 FG%
C Donatas Zavackas 6'8" Sr. 5.4 rpg
SG Julius Page 6'3" Jr. 12.2 ppg
PG Brandin Knight 6'0" Sr. 7.2 apg

Returning starter

2001-02 RECORD: 29-6 (13-3, 1st in Big East West)
TOURNAMENT: Lost to Kent State in Sweet 16

Points per game allowed by the Panthers last season, the lowest
average allowed by a Pitt team since the 1951-52

An opposing coach's view

The key to beating the Panthers: take them out of a half-court

"They're extremely good at running their half-court offense, and
that's because of Brandin Knight. Knight really improved his jump
shot last year, which made him dangerous because he's very strong
and he penetrates well. You need to trap him to make him give up
the ball.... Julius Page might be one of the top three athletes
in the Big East, but he gets out of control sometimes. He can
shoot it, but he's streaky.... They have good big men, but those
guys don't move as well. You have to push them away from the
basket and make them run the floor.... A lot of people are
talking about freshman shooting guard Carl Krauser. I've heard
he's as talented as anybody in their program.... You have all
those guys who had terrific success last year, but the question
is, Will everybody be as happy with their roles again?"