PITTSBURGH (AP) -The only surprises these days for No. 17 Pitt seem to be unpleasant ones.
After beating Syracuse, Connecticut and Louisville during a five-game winning streak that began Big East play, the Panthers probably realized it would be difficult to maintain that unexpectedly high level of play.
They were the surprise team of the Big East after being picked to finish ninth in the conference, and a breakout team nationally during what is supposed to be a start-all-over-again season.
While a falloff probably was inevitable for a team that returned only one regular from a year ago, the Panthers (15-4, 5-2) didn't expect so much to go wrong so suddenly.
Their guards, steady and productive all season, lost their shooting touch. Their defensive intensity lessened. They began turning the ball over at a rate uncharacteristic for a Jamie Dixon-coached team.
confident now,'' Dixon said following successive losses to now-No. 7 Georgetown (74-66) on Jan. 20 and unranked Seton Hall (64-61) on Sunday.
While the Panthers didn't tumble out of the Top 25, they dropped eight spots this week after reaching the Top 10 for the first time this season at No. 9. They have a chance to get turned around when they play St. John's (12-7, 2-5) on Thursday night, and it's one they don't want to waste.
``We just have to bounce back from these losses and get going again,'' center Gary McGhee said. ``We haven't lost any confidence. We just committed too many turnovers (20) against Seton Hall and had a few defensive mishaps against Georgetown that kept us from winning those games, so we need to turn those games around.''
It would help if leading scorer Ashton Gibbs (17.3 points per game) would rediscover his shooting touch.
After going 18 of 28 during a three-game stretch, Gibbs has made 21 of 58 shots (36.2 percent) during his last four games. There's nothing wrong with his free-throw shooting - he's 22 of 23 during the same stretch - but defenses aren't giving him the open shots he saw earlier this season.
Jermaine Dixon also is slumping, making only 16 of 47 shots (34 percent) in his last four. Pitt has been so reliant upon its guards for scoring, the rest of the offense isn't making up for all those missed shots.
nst Louisville on Jan. 16, but had only nine points combined in the two losses.
``Our offense is based on our perimeter guys,'' Jamie Dixon said. ``But when you turn it over, you don't get enough shots. And that was our problem (against Seton Hall). We didn't get enough shots.''
St. John's is coming off losses to Connecticut (75-59) and No. 4 Villanova (81-71). The Red Storm's leading scorer is guard D.J. Kennedy (15.3 points), a Pittsburgh native who played three seasons ago with former Pitt star DeJuan Blair on Schenley High's Pennsylvania state championship team.
``Basketball is a game of ups and downs, so after a five-game winning streak in the Big East we've got two losses in a row,'' Pitt forward Gilbert Brown said. ``That's due to a loss of focus on the court. I really believe in this team, and I think it's going to pull out of this quickly.''

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