Steel City not all super

With the Steelers' victory in Super Bowl XL, it is easy to overlook the fact that another squad in Pittsburgh has recently sustained a pair of tough losses.

The Panthers have lost consecutive games for the first time since the end of last season and play West Virginia, which sits atop the conference standings, at home on Thursday.

The most recent disapointment came Sunday in Washington, D.C. Georgetown's zone defense held Pitt to two points in the first nine minutes of the second half. Still the Panthers had a chance to win it in the end. Pitt trailed by three before Levance Fields drove the length of the court and sank a layup with four seconds to play. Georgetown's Darrel Owens made two free throws to seal Georgetown's 61-58 victory.

Pitt suffered an equally disheartening victory Wednesday, losing at No. 1 Connecticut 80-76.

"That was a tough game," Aaron Gray told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "We played real hard. The shots just weren't falling tonight. It just wasn't our night."

A new life

In his Jan. 26 column for www.si.com, basketball pundit Seth Davis speculated Seton Hall head coach Louis Orr was on his way out.

At that point the Pirates were 11-6 overall and 2-3 in conference play. In addition, their top recruit had withdrawn his commitment. Davis even went so far as to handicap the race to replace Orr.

Since then the Pirates have rattled off three straight conference victories, defeating Syracuse 68-61, Providence 77-74 and Rutgers 73-67.

All this has taken place without 6-foot-7 junior forward Stan Gaines who suffered multiple facial fractions in a Jan. 17 loss to Villanova.

The injury forced Orr to start the quicker Brian Laing. The sophomore has played well with junior guard Jamar Nutter, senior Kelly Whitney and guard Donald Copeland.

Whitney and Nutter are eighth and ninth, respectively, in scoring in conference games at 17.9 and 17.3 points per game. Copeland was named the Big East Player of the Week for week of Jan. 23-29.

Honor roll

Marquette's Steve Novak was one of the nine Big East men's basketball players named a midseason candidate for the John R. Wooden Award.

Other Big East athletes who were named midseason candidates for the college basketball player of the year award include Villanova's Allan Ray and Randy Foye, West Virginia's Mike Gansey and Kevin Pittsnogle, Connecticut's Rudy Gay, Louisville's Taquan Dean, Pittsburgh's Carl Krauser and Syracuse's Gerry McNamara.

No other conference had more than five players on the 30-person list.