Aaron Gray, Pitt’s 7-foot senior center, is the team’s top scorer and rebounder and an All-America candidate, but he isn’t always the Panthers’ top performer.

Coach Jamie Dixon has maintained all season that he has nine starters, even though Gray, junior Mike Cook, seniors Levon Kendall and Antonio Graves and sophomore point guard Levance Fields have opened every game. Junior Ronald Ramon, sophomores Sam Young and Terrell Biggs and junior Keith Benjamin have been relegated to coming off the bench.

Wednesday night’s game at West Virginia, it was Young’s turn to shine. The athletic forward displayed a varied array of inside and outside shots that helped him hit a career-best 21 points. Graves took over in a game at Villanova, while Fields got hot against Cincinnati. And Ramon has been the team’s most dangerous 3-point shooter all year long.

Some still believe that Young and Ramon should be starting ahead of Kendall and Graves, but Dixon’s contention has held true. The Panthers (22-3, 10-1 Big East) have had six different players lead the team in scoring this season. And all nine “starters” have scored in double figures at least once this season.

“We try to keep the minutes played close, but if somebody gets hot, his time will increase,” Dixon said. “And it really doesn’t matter who starts. If you play well, you’ll finish the game, and that’s what really matters.”

Gray has been the most consistent performer for Pitt this season. After a midseason slump when he tallied just 26 total points in four games, Gray has been dominant. He averages about 15 points and 10 rebounds per game this season.

“It’s been said that Pitt doesn’t have a go-to guy, but that’s not true,” Gray said. “We have plenty of go-to guys, but we just don’t know who that’s going to be in any given game. Somebody different always steps up.

“That’s what makes us so dangerous. Some guys might not be consistent this year, but we consistently have two or three guys play well each game. That’s what makes us so tough to beat.”

Gray still is the main go-to player for the Panthers, and they are most successful when they’re able to pound the ball down low to him. Few players in the Big East, let alone the nation, can guard Gray when he gets the ball in the paint. He’s been playing so well lately that the opposition tends to double- and even triple-team him when possible.

Gray counteracts that with pinpoint passing. When a defense backs into Gray, he just kicks it back out to the wing or the top of the key. And then guys like Ramon, Fields, Graves or Cook can drill a 3-pointer. But Young, Benjamin and Biggs have also hit their fair share from beyond the arc.

“Aaron’s gotten a lot better,” Dixon said. “He can get out on the wing and guard someone like a backcourt player, and his passing is much-improved. He really is becoming a more complete player.”

And that makes him Pitt’s go-to guy during a tough homestretch. The Panthers play host to Louisville tonight at 7 and also entertain Washington in a nonconference game Saturday at 2 p.m. But three of their final four regular-season games are on the road. Pitt travels to Seton Hall (Feb. 19), Georgetown (Feb. 24) and Marquette (March 3) to end the regular season. West Virginia visits the Petersen Events Center on Feb. 27.

“We do have some tough games coming up, but we’ll be ready for them,” Ramon said. “And with the way we rotate guys in and out, we’ll be fresh for the Big East and NCAA tournaments. We’ll be prepared thanks to our tough schedule, too. We just have to play each game as it comes to us.”

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