Oltmanns: The top five Pitt wins of 2010

By Alex Oltmanns

The year 2010 was one of ups and downs for Pitt athletics. Some teams accomplished feats few… The year 2010 was one of ups and downs for Pitt athletics. Some teams accomplished feats few thought possible, while others failed to live up to expectations. There were many big wins that took place this calendar year, but for the sake of the length of this column, I’ll choose to revisit the top five biggest wins in Panthers sports this year.

5. Pitt baseball sweeps St. John’s: March 26-28

The Panthers baseball team got off to a 15-4 start last season, yet people still didn’t quite recognize the Panthers as a threat to contend for the Big East title. But after winning all three games in its first Big East series against St. John’s, Pitt served notice to the rest of the league. Pitchers Corey Baker and Matt Iannazzo continued their domination of opposing hitters, striking out 13 total batters in the series. Though Pitt ended up finishing third in the Big East, the Panthers put together one of their finest seasons in recent memory, and the three wins against St. John’s got them off to a good start in league play.

4. Pitt football dominates Syracuse 45-14: Oct. 16

Much like the baseball team, the Pitt football team got off to a hot start on its 2010 Big East schedule by crushing Syracuse at the Carrier Dome. Although the win didn’t seem like much at the time, as it came against a team that has finished near the bottom of the league for close to a decade, it turned out to be a solid victory. The Orange finished 7-5, and besides South Florida, Syracuse was the only team Pitt beat this season that finished with a winning record. Panthers quarterback Tino Sunseri threw  a career-high four touchdown passes as the Panthers rolled to victory.

3. Pitt men’s basketball defeats Villanova 70-65: Feb. 21

The Panthers knocked off the third-ranked Wildcats to earn their 10th league win and knock off their fourth-ranked team of the season in a nationally televised game at the Petersen Events Center. Pitt guard Ashton Gibbs led the Panthers in scoring with 21 points, while Gilbert Brown chipped in with 16. The win was also significant as it gave the Panthers revenge over Villanova, which ended its chance at a Final Four appearance with a last-second layup in the NCAA Tournament. “I wanted to win that game for the players that left last year,” former Pitt guard Jermaine Dixon said after the game.

2. Pitt men’s basketball beats Syracuse 82-72: Jan. 5

In the first Pitt sporting event of the new year, the Panthers picked up their first significant win of the season. Before that game, most onlookers viewed 2010 as a rebuilding year, but the win against the No. 5 team in the country, which was previously undefeated, set the tone for the Panthers’ critical three-game road trip that included wins over Syracuse, Cincinnati and then-No. 15 Connecticut. In what seems like a recurring theme on this list, the win got the Panthers’ Big East season off to a good start in only their second conference game. The win altered fans’ expectations for an average season, causing them to consider another NCAA tournament berth.

1. Pitt men’s basketball wins thriller over WVU 98-95: Feb. 12

Not even double overtime was enough to decide this game, as the Panthers came away with a win over bitter rival No. 4 West Virginia. Trailing by seven points with 49 seconds left in regulation, the Panthers mounted a frenzied comeback and tied the game at 68 on a sequence of two Travon Woodall free throws, a Nasir Robinson steal and an Ashton Gibbs 3-pointer, sending it to overtime. As the overtime periods wore on, three of Pitt’s major contributors — Brad Wanamaker, Dixon and Woodall — had fouled out and the Panthers were still able to pull off a dramatic victory. Gibbs logged 50 minutes of playing time in the marathon game, and he and Wanamaker led the team in scoring with 24 points each. It’s the greatest game ever to be played in the Petersen Events Center’s nine-year history.