By: Chris Gates

PITTSBURGH (93-7 The FAN) — Of everything that seems to be lacking from the Pitt Panthers, fight seems to encompass it all.

Never can I remember players coming to post-game press conferences and saying “they wanted it more than we did” with more frequency than this season. It’s been concerning, and it could be a big reason why the Panthers are mired in a three-game losing streak and out of the national polls for the first time in 40 weeks.

With that, it appears coach Jamie Dixon is looking to get that fight back. According to the Post-Gazette’s Ray Fittipaldo, Dixon let the players loose at Tuesday’s practice.

“Coaches let us play,” senior forward Nasir Robinson said. “Today we had a drill where he just let us get after it. Guys were throwing each other around. A couple of guys got their mouths bloodied today. He was letting us play. I think we needed that. I think it’s going to help us. It will carry over into the games.”

Whether this will pay off is yet to be determined. But nobody can deny that striving to get the toughness and grittiness back into Pitt basketball is a must.

This is a program defined by moments like Dejuan Blair throwing UConn’s Hasheem Thabeet to the ground. It’s epitomized by players like Gary McGhee, who was rarely muscled away from the ball.

After losing arguably its best front court player in Khem Birch and seeing guard Tray Woodall miss six of the last seven games with an abdominal injury, the remaining group has to get tougher.

That toughness has to emerge quickly, too. The Panthers have two winnable games against Depaul and Rutgers before a murderers row stretch against Marquette, Syracuse and Louisville in consecutive games.

Chris Gates | Area 4-1-Zoo Blog