Assists aren’t just a passing fancy for the Pitt men’s basketball team.

The Panthers (16-2 overall, 4-0 in the Big East), who play host to Connecticut (13-3, 2-2) tonight at 7 at the Petersen Events Center, are fifth nationally with 19.6 assists a game. Pitt also is seventh with just 11.3 turnovers a game and leads the nation with a nearly 1.74 assists-to-turnovers ratio.

Pitt recorded 22 assists on 28 field goals and just seven turnovers in a 74-69 win against Georgetown Saturday night.

“We had great spacing, great passing and great unselfishness,” Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said. “And we have nine guys that can do it. We’re pretty good offensively. ... Everyone talks about our defense and (Georgetown’s) defense, but we’re good offensively as well. We read the defense, and we play to that. That’s a sign of a good offense. Our numbers reflect that.”

If the Panthers can continue on this pace, they would finish with almost 700 team assists.

No other Pitt team has had even 600 in one season.

Through 18 games, with 353 assists and 203 turnovers, the Panthers could become only the third Pitt team to finish with less than 400 turnovers.

Seven of Pitt’s top nine players have more assists than turnovers with only Keith Benjamin and Sam Young on the negative side. However, both are playing better recently. Sophomore point guard Levance Fields had six assists and no turnovers against Georgetown, and he has 93 assists with 31 turnovers in 18 games. That’s a 3-1 ratio. The Panthers record was set 16 years ago by Sean Miller at 2.41.

“We try to play like that all year, share the ball and try to find the open man,” junior Mike Cook said. “We’re a talented team, and we all trust each other. So, it doesn’t matter who scores the points as long as the team wins. That is the most important thing here.”

Pitt has done an excellent job in that area, but it’s in the midst of a crucial three-game homestand against other Big East powers. After the UConn matchup, the Panthers face Marquette at the Pete Sunday at 3 p.m.

“Not only do we have some tough home games, they’re against the best teams in the Big East,” center Aaron Gray said. “We have a little bit of an advantage, having them at home. But at the same time, you’re playing three of the top teams in the Big East in (nine) days.”

While the three usually are ranked highly, they aren’t playing as well this season as previously predicted. Georgetown is unranked after being rated in the top 10 in the preseason, ahead of Pitt in most polls, while UConn is out of the rankings after losing three of the past four. And Marquette, rated as high as eighth, was 0-2 in the Big East before beating the Huskies.

Pitt was picked to win the Conference, while Georgetown was rated second. Marquette and UConn were fourth and fifth, respectively. The Panthers lost to Georgetown and UConn last season and split with Marquette.

“It’s definitely a huge advantage for us, playing at home,” Gray said. “We’re just real confident and real comfortable here at home. Every team that comes in here is worried. But, we just have to take it one game at a time, prepare individually for each game and do our best.”

Pitt’s second home test is tonight against Connecticut.

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