DePaul Blue Demons vs. Pittsburgh Panthers – Thursday, January 5th, 6:00 p.m. Central – Allstate Arena, Rosemont, Illinois
Television – ESPN2
Radio – WSCR AM 670
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For the first time in many years, Jamie Dixon's Pitt Panthers (11-4, 0-2) appear to be vulnerable. Pitt has dominated DePaul since joining the Big East. The Panthers have won the last seven games in the series between the two schools.
Yet Pitt dropped out of both the Associated Press and ESPN Today Polls on Monday after getting off to an 0-2 start in the Big East last week. It is the first time in the last 39 weeks that Pitt wasn't ranked in the AP Poll.
The last time the Panthers started 0-2 in the league was 12 years ago.
Pitt has been hampered by abdominal and groin injuries to starting point guard Travon Woodall. Woodall did not play in Sunday's 66-63 home loss to Cincinnati and has not been practicing with the team.
Facing a struggling Pitt team though is like confronting an injured wild animal. They may be vulnerable, but can lash out and attack you when cornered.
The Panthers have lost three straight games, but Pitt has never lost four games in a row under Dixon.
One facet of the game where DePaul (9-4, 0-1) might be able to gain an advantage is by creating turnovers. DePaul's full court press likes to generate points off of turnovers. The Panthers turned the ball over 17 times in their loss to the Bearcats.
"Turnovers in the first half really hurt us," Dixon said on Sunday. "I think they got some transition baskets out of that. I emphasized being more aggressive in the second half and I think we did a good job attacking the press later on."
Pitt definitely has the advantage on the glass going into this match up. The Panthers lead the nation in rebounding margin at a plus 13 per game. Meanwhile, DePaul is dead last in the Big East at a negative 4.8 boards per game.
Pitt will of course want to slow the game down and limit the number of possessions, so we'll of course see a contrast in styles at Allstate Arena on Thursday night.
Cleaning up on the glass for Pitt is the trio of Dante Taylor (6.3 rpg), Nasir Robinson (6.7 rpg), and Talib Zanna (6.1 rpg), who are all averaging better than six rebounds per game.
The 6-5 Robinson, who is leading the Big East in field goal percentage at 65.6%, led the Panthers in scoring against Cincinnati with a double-double of 19 points and 10 rebounds.
DePaul backup point guard Worrel Clahar is looking forward to facing Pitt. The Brooklyn native is good friends with Taylor, Woodall, and Ashton Gibbs.
"My best friend Dante Taylor goes to Pittsburgh," said Clahar. "I speak to Dante Taylor ever y day. He's one of my best friends from New York. We grew up together and went to the same high school. It's real exciting to play against those guys."
The Last Time
On January 22nd, 2011, the fifth ranked Pitt Panthers came into Allstate Arena and ran roughshod over DePaul in a 80-50 rout.
Pitt came in prepared to handle DePaul leading scorer Cleveland Melvin. The Panthers held Melvin to 11 points. Melvin shot four of 13 from the floor and was frustrated with Pitt's physicality.
Pitt forward Gilbert Brown led all scorers with 17 points. Guard Ashton Gibbs broke the 1,000 point mark for his career with 13 points and was three of five from three point territory.
# NAME HT/WT POS YR HOMETOWN/LAST SCHOOL
2 Isaiah Epps 6-2/185 Guard RS FR Plainfield, N.J./Hargrave Military Academy/Plainfield H.S.
12 Ashton Gibbs 6-2/190 Guard SR Scotch Plains, N.J./Seton Hall Prep
33 Malcolm Gilbert 6-11/235 Center FR Smyrna, Del./The Academy of the New Church (Pa.)
5 Durand Johnson 6-6/190 Forward FR Baltimore, Md./Brewster Academy (N.H.)
4 John Johnson 6-1/175 Guard FR Philadelphia, Pa./Life Center Academy (N.J.)
44 J.J. Moore 6-6/205 Forward SO Brentwood, N.Y./South Kent Prep/Brentwood H.S.
15 Aron Nwankwo 6-7/205 Forward SO Baltimore, Md./Baltimore City College H.S.
21 Lamar Patterson 6-5/221 Guard/Forward RS SO Lancaster, Pa./St. Benedict's (N.J.)/J.P. McCaskey H.S.
14 Nick Rivers 6-0/180 Guard SR Phoenix, Ariz./Brophy College Prep
35 Nasir Robinson 6-5/225 Forward SR Chester, Pa./Chester H.S.
11 Dante Taylor 6-9/240 Forward JR Greenburgh, N.Y./National Christian Academy (Md.)
1 Tray Woodall 5-11/190 Guard RS JR Brooklyn, N.Y.-Paterson, N.J./St. Anthony H.S. (N.J.)
3 Cameron Wright 6-4/205 Guard RS FR Cleveland, Ohio/Benedictine H.S.
42 Talib Zanna 6-9/230 Forward RS SO Kaduna, Nigeria/Bishop McNamara (Md.)
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