Turning Things Around?

Ronald Ramon had been struggling with his 3-point shot all season, and things had gotten especially bad for the Pittsburgh guard lately. But one buzzer-beater might be able to start turning around his season - and that of the inconsistent Panthers.

On Tuesday night, No. 22 Pittsburgh (18-5, 6-4) try to build off Ramon's last-second game-winner when they host struggling Providence, which has won just once on the road all season.

Oddsmakers from Bodog have made Pittsburgh -9 point spread favorites (View College Basketball odds) for today’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 71% of bets for this game have been placed on Pittsburgh -9 (View College Basketball bet percentages).

Pitt was in danger of falling to .500 in the Big East and out of the Top 25 when it trailed West Virginia 54-52 in the waning seconds on Thursday. But Ramon, who had been 1-of-5 from beyond the arc in the game and 6-of-24 in his past six contests, hit a 3-pointer as time expired to give the Panthers the 55-54 win.

"That was a big-time shot by a big-time player," Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon said. "I've said all along that I'm the luckiest guy in the world to coach Ronald Ramon. He's a great player and an even better kid."

Pitt has alternated wins and losses in its last seven games following a 69-60 win over then-No. 5 Georgetown on Jan. 14. Since then, the Panthers are scoring just 63.5 points - 11 fewer than their season average - and shooting 41.4 percent from the floor, including 29.3 percent from 3-point range.

Even games at the Petersen Events Center are no longer easy wins. Pitt is 93-9 at home in seven years at their on-campus facility, but in its past three games, was beaten convincingly by unranked Rutgers and nearly lost to the Mountaineers.

Keith Benjamin, who has started all 11 games since Levance Fields went down with a broken foot on Dec. 29, thinks Pitt can still contend for the conference title.

"Every game is huge from here on out," said Benjamin, who's averaging 12.6 points as a starter. "The Big East is a crazy league, and you never know when you're out of it. We're playing well on defense and once we get back to playing like I know we can on offense, we're going to be a tough team to beat."

Sam Young has been the key to the Panthers' offense this season, averaging 17.7 points - 10.5 more than he did as a sophomore in 2006-07. He took a season-low six shots and finished with 10 points against West Virginia.

Freshman DeJuan Blair is the team's best offensive option down low, averaging 11.7 points and his 9.7 rebounds per game rank him third in the conference.

Providence (13-10, 4-7) has lost five of six following a three-game winning streak that included its lone road victory, 77-65 at Connecticut on Jan. 17.

Most of the Friars' problems this season have come on defense. They're allowing 74.3 points per game on 45.0 percent shooting over their past six contests. They held St. John's well below that average on Saturday, but committed 15 turnovers in a 64-62 loss.

Offensively, Providence is one of the country's most balanced units. Five players, including four starters, average between 10.4 and 12.4 points.

Junior Jeff Xavier leads the team in scoring, but he's been inconsistent. He scored 19 against the Red Storm, including five 3-pointers, but had just eight points combined in his previous two games.

The Panthers have won seven straight in the series from Providence, including all four meetings at home. The Friars last won in Pittsburgh in 1998.

by: Staff Writers - Email Us

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