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Panthers looks for marquee win vs. No. 6 Syracuse

Panthers looks for marquee win vs. No. 6 Syracuse

PITTSBURGH (AP) Pittsburgh is putting together a nice little bounce back season after last year's stunning freefall to the bottom of the Big East.

The Panthers (17-5) have a 25-point road win over Georgetown to their credit. They've beaten just about everybody they're supposed to beat and been competitive in their five losses, four of them to teams who were ranked at the time.

Still, there's a certain something missing from Pitt's resume: an eye-catching and NCAA tournament resume-building victory. The Panthers can close that glaring loophole on Saturday against No. 6 Syracuse (18-2, 6-1).

Pitt is a remarkable 12-1 against Top 10 teams at the Petersen Events Center since it opened a decade ago. Moving that mark to 13-1 would undoubtedly catch the attention of the various computer indexes coach Jamie Dixon loves to monitor.

``We've got to win,'' Dixon said. ``That's what we're here to do and that's what we need to do.''

It's something that used to happen with great regularity for the Panthers, particularly at home. Yet Pitt is 0-2 against ranked opponents at The Pete this season, losing to Cincinnati and Marquette by a combined 16 points. For the Panthers to emerge from the middle of a very crowded - and largely very average - Big East, Dixon knows his team needs to bring some of the menace back to what has been one of the more difficult places to play in the country.

``First and foremost we've got to win our home games,'' Dixon said. ``You want to win every one of them, we haven't. We lost two of them. We haven't taken care of business on home court. We need to win a good game.''

The Panthers nearly did on Monday, playing tight all the way in a 64-61 road loss at No. 12 Louisville. Pitt stayed within striking distance despite making an abysmal 3 of 12 free throws and allowing the Cardinals to get loose for 10 dunks.

Not exactly the mix of efficient offense and suffocating defense that's become the Panthers' trademark under Dixon. The Panthers only stayed in the game thanks to 15 offensive rebounds that turned into 25 second-chance points.

Getting those kinds of numbers against Syracuse's 2-3 zone will be difficult. The Panthers believe a little better execution getting the first shot means there won't be a big of a need for so many second ones.

``You've just got to do the right thing,'' forward Talib Zanna said. ``If we do the right thing, it might come easy for us; just attack the zone and do what Dixon wants us to do (like) taking good shots at the right time.''

That wasn't an issue early in the season for Zanna, who was dominant at times during the nonconference portion of the schedule. Opposing coaches raved about the 6-foot-9 junior's development and his aggressiveness gave freshman center Steven Adams a little room to breathe and get comfortable.

All that success, however, came at a price. Zanna hasn't been the same over the last six games. Since a 15-point effort in that 73-48 romp over the Hoyas on Jan. 8, Zanna is averaging just 5.8 points and 5.3 rebounds.

The soft-spoken Nigeria native says he's been pressing a little bit in recent weeks. Playing bigger, brawnier teams that have pushed him out of the lane hasn't helped either.

``Yeah, it's the Big East so the intensity is going to improve,'' Zanna said. ``I've just got to be patient and let the game come to me. I think sometimes I (try to rush) some shots, so I've just got to take my time and make plays and make my teammates better.''

Zanna grabbed 10 rebounds - including six offensive boards - against the Cardinals but shot just 2 of 9 - and didn't get to the free throw line for the first time in nearly two months. Dixon believes the issue isn't Zanna so much as the natural growing pains that come when a player is dealing with significant attention from the opposition for the first time in his career.

``He's gotten the right shots, he's taking good shots,'' Dixon said. ``We've talked about maybe rushing some of the shots, not gathering (the ball) and stepping through and being balanced. The effort is there and good things are going to happen when you're doing what he's doing.''

The Panthers will need Zanna to rediscover some of that shooting touch to help open up the zone. If he can be effective at the high post or ducking in down low, that could free up space for Pitt's 3-point shooters.

Dixon knows a little something about beating the Orange. Pitt is 9-3 against Syracuse under Dixon's watch. Getting that number to 10-3 would go a long way to giving the Panthers a boost and serving notice their rebound season might turn into something even more substantial.

``Just having a chance to go at a team that's ranked and is No. 1 in the Big East, it gives you a lot to look for,'' forward Lamar Patterson said. ``We have to come out strong and get that `W.'''

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Follow Will Graves at www.twitter.com/WillGravesAP

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5 must-see moments from Wizards' blowout loss to Hornets, including Bradley Beal's buzzer-beater

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5 must-see moments from Wizards' blowout loss to Hornets, including Bradley Beal's buzzer-beater

Here are the five best plays or moments from the Wizards' 122-105 loss to the Charlotte Hornets on Friday night...

1. This was a tough one for the Wizards. For the third time this season, they got beaten by the Hornets and for the second straight time it was in a blowout.

They still had their moments, though, including this alley-oop from Tomas Satoransky (11 points) to Markieff Morris (13 points, eight assists, six rebounds). It was the second alley-oop connection for those two in as many games:

PODCAST: WHAT THE SESSIONS SIGNING MEANS FOR SATORANSKY

2. This was a play that encapsulated the Wizards' night. Jodie Meeks drew a flagrant foul on Michael Carter-Williams, but took a hard shot to the head:

3. Kelly Oubre, Jr. had a solid game with 11 points, including this big dunk:

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4. Speaking of Oubre, he helped the Wizards close the first half with a late surge. The real highlight was Bradley Beal stealing the ball and hitting a corner three at the buzzer:

5. Beal ended up with 33 points, six assists and six rebounds. Here's an and-1 he got to go down in the second half:

All in all, it was an ugly performance for the Wizards. To cheer you up, we'll leave you with this young fan who had a great time at Capital One Arena despite the result:

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Wizards suffer lopsided loss against Hornets, who have had their number this season

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Wizards suffer lopsided loss against Hornets, who have had their number this season

The Washington Wizards lost to the Charlotte Hornets 122-105 on Friday night. Here's analysis of what went down...

Bad matchup: Despite their poor record, there is something about this Charlotte Hornets team that gives the Wizards trouble. The Wizards lost to the Hornets (26-33) for the third time in three tries this season on Friday night and, aside from a push in the third quarter, they were never really in it.

All in all, it was a dud of a game for the Wizards who were probably due for one. They had won three straight games and eight of 10 since John Wall got injured. They were also coming off a huge road win the night before in Cleveland, a game that started an hour later than usual.

It was a tough turnaround and the Wizards sure looked like it. It was evident in their defense and unforced errors. They did, however, have a decent shooting night. They shot 49.4 percent from the field 16-for-17 from the free throw line.

The Wizards' second unit didn't provide a lift outside of Kelly Oubre, Jr. (11 points). Mike Scott, one of their best bench options, was held scoreless.

PODCAST: WHAT THE SESSIONS SIGNING MEANS FOR SATORANSKY

Ugly first half: The Wizards only trailed by 12 points at halftime, but that score was skewed by a five-point push in the final seconds. The Hornets dominated for much of the first two quarters and did so by hitting threes and forcing turnovers. Those mistakes dug the Wizards a hole they never recovered from.

The Wizards had 10 turnovers in the first half, the same amount they had in their entire game the night before. Limiting mistakes was a big reason they beat the Cavaliers, yet the script was flipped by Charlotte.

The Hornets capitalized with 23 points off those 10 first-half turnovers. The Wizards had 14 giveaways for the games that led to 28 total points. 

Charlotte was 7-for-11 from three at one point in the first half and finished 17-for-39 (43.6%) for the game. That is very uncharacteristic for the Wizards, who entered the night second in the NBA in opponents three-point percentage.

Again, though, the first half ended well as Oubre and Bradley Beal gave the Wizards a jolt in the final seconds:

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Bad defense: The Wizards have played some great defense in recent weeks, but they just didn't have it on Friday night. Most surprising were the guys that hurt them most.

Dwight Howard was limited to 11 points and six rebounds and Kemba Walker didn't score his first points until the final minute of the first half. But others like Frank Kaminsky (23 points), Marvin Williams (15 points) and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (14 points) got pretty much anything they wanted.

For Walker, it was a tale of two halves. He was held in check by Tomas Satoransky in the first half, but broke out in the third quarter and finished with 24 points and seven rebounds. Maybe it was tired legs on the Wizards' part, but Walker just kept dribbling until he got space and once he did, he knocked down shots.

Much like Kyle Lowry did a few weeks ago, Walker made adjustments to find success against Satoransky. We haven't seen that happen much since Wall went out, but those two have given him some trouble. Both guys are considerably smaller than Satoransky and very quick. Maybe there's something to that.

Add it all up and this was one of the worst defensive games of the season for the Wizards. They allowed their most points in a game since Jan. 17 against, you guessed it, the Hornets. Only three times this year have they given up more than what they allowed on Friday.

No Sessions: The Wizards did not debut their newest player on Friday night, which was probably to be expected given Ramon Sessions has not had any practice time yet. That is part of why he didn't play, but it's also another indication that he is unlikely to play much with the Wizards. Sessions is on a 10-day contract and is not expected to supplant either Satoransky or Tim Frazier at point guard. Frazier would seem to be the guy in danger of losing minutes, but it was business as usual for him against the Hornets.

Up next: The Wizards are off Saturday before returning to action at home against the Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday night. Tipoff is at 8 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington.

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