Defense Has Been the Key to the Pittsbugh Panthers' Recent Success

By Paul Seaver
Charles LeClaire-USA Today Sports

If you haven’t noticed by now, the Pittsburgh Panthers are quickly emerging as one of the leading threats near the top of the Big East Conference.

As league play rolls along and the final few weeks of regular season action takes center stage, the push for improvements and the opportunity to make a run takes it course. The Panthers have been filing right alongside that line.

At 20-5 overall and 8-4 within the conference, Pittsburgh’s recent success can be credited to its defensive work and intensity. The numbers don’t lie. The Panthers are slowing the pace and controlling the tempo over the course of the past few weeks and the wins have begun to stack up in their favor.

In return, the Panthers are soaring up the polls, moving up to No. 16 this week and this all comes on the heels of a season that can certainly be labeled as a disappointment in the eyes of Pittsburgh’s fans. Their resurgence this year has been a testament to the work of head coach Jamie Dixon, while point guard and leading scorer Tray Woodall continues to lead the way.

Since mid-January, Pittsburgh has won seven of their past eight games overall and are currently riding a three-game winning streak which includes two Top 25 victories. In their current three-game winning streak however, the defensive numbers are what should really jumps out to opposing teams.

The Panthers have held their opponents to 55, 46 and 52 points respectively over the past three games. That’s good enough for an average of 51 points per game. This all goes back to the Panthers’ ability to slow down the game and control the tempo. Woodall is the Panthers’ leading scorer, but he is only averaging 10.9 points per game. Therefore, Pittsburgh isn’t going to wow many teams with prolific scoring, games in the 50s and 60s are simply right up their alley.

So, when Pittsburgh is able to limit their past three opponents to just 51 points per game on average, it shouldn’t come as any surprise as to why they have been able to stack up victories within the Big East Conference.

There is still a long way to go, but if the Panthers can keep up this edge on the defensive end, then watch out.


Follow Paul Seaver on Twitter: @PaulSeaverRS


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