Pitt Preview

Known in the past for being a big, strong, physical team, the No. 5 Pittsburgh Panthers (14-1, 2-0 BIG EAST) are no different this season.

Marquette Golden Eagles (11-4, 2-0 BIG EAST) at No. 5 Pittsburgh Panthers (14-1, 2-0 BIG EAST)

Peterson Events Center– Pittsburgh, PA.

Time: Saturday, 1:00 pm CST

Coverage: Big East Network, ESPN3.com, ESPN Fullcourt, TWS32 (local; in HD on 1332)

Known in the past for being a big, strong, physical team, the No. 5 Pittsburgh Panthers (14-1, 2-0 BIG EAST) are no different this season.

This year, however, they have been much better at putting the ball in the basket, a large reason why national pundits along with Panther faithful believe they have final four potential.

Scoring just 69 points-per-game a season ago, Pitt has upped their output to 81 this season. And it's the way they are doing it that worries the rest of the BIG EAST. The Panthers rank second in the country in offensive efficiency and first in offensive rebound percentage, grabbing an astonishing 47 percent of their misses.

A statistic, which has to have Marquette coaches, players and fans, concerned. In their four losses this season, the Golden Eagles have allowed opponents to grab a combined 53 offensive boards.

Not only do the Golden Eagles have to worry about the boards, they will have to do it in front of a raucous crowd in Oakland. Pitt owns a 58-10 record vs. Big East opponents at the Peterson Events Center.

As if that wasn't enough, MU will face a team that returns four starters and many contributors from an NCAA tournament team.

Junior guard Ashton Gibbs heads an experienced Panthers backcourt. Gibbs leads the team in scoring at just over 16 points-per-game. He has been extremely efficient this year and is a big time threat from beyond the arc (45 percent from 3pt range).

Senior guard Brad Wanamaker joins Gibbs to form a very tough duo on the outside. The six-foot-four Wanamaker can do just about everything on the floor for Pittsburgh, and even leads the team in assists (5.3 apg).

Senior forward Gilbert Brown provides a lot of versatility on the wing for Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon. Brown is an excellent finisher at the rim and has an ability to stretch the defense with his shooting ability. In the frontcourt, Pittsburgh rotates many bodies in-and-out without loosing any production. Nasir Robinson and Gary McGhee start on the inside for the Panthers. Robinson is an undersized post player but finishes against bigger players. McGhee made a huge stride in his game last year and has continued to be efficient this season. He is a physical presence on both the offensive and defensive end of the floor.

In Pitt's 58-51 win over Marquette last season, the duo combined for 20 points, 11 rebounds and 6 blocks while missing just two shots from the field (9-11 combined).

Some of the biggest revelations of the year for Pittsburgh have been in the post. 2008 McDonald's All American Dante Taylor has boosted his game this year and has been very productive. Taylor provides a dose of athleticism in addition to his scoring (7.2 ppg, 70% FG) and rebounding (5.4 rpg). Much of his offense has been predicated on his offensive rebounding ability. He leads the country in offensive rebound percentage and has converted on a number of those opportunities.

Redshirt freshman Talib Zanna has also had some impressive performances on the season, including a double-double (14 points, 12 rebounds) in a win over Maryland. His minutes have been falling as of late (single digit minutes in Pitt's two BIG EAST games) so it will be interesting to see if he gets in the mix.

Dixon brings a trio of younger players off the bench to round out his nine-ten man rotation. Sophomore Travon Woodall provides a scoring punch along with his ball-handling abilities. Wings J.J. Moore and Lamar Patterson add versatility on the wings.

The task may be monumental, but Saturday's game provides huge opportunities for Marquette. A chance to knock off one of the top teams in the country. An opportunity to get a win on the road. A chance to prove they can win (a game that in a likelihood will be) a close game.

Pittsburgh Projected Starters:

G –#12– Ashton Gibbs (6'2" 190 lbs, Junior) --- (16.3 ppg, 3.7 apg, 45% 3pt)

G –#22– Brad Wannamaker (6'4" 210 lbs, Senior) --- (12.8 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 5.3 apg, 1.7 spg, 38% 3pt)

G/F –#5– Gilbert Brown (6'6" 200 lbs, Senior) --- (11.4 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 3.1 apg, 44% 3PT)

F –#35– Nasir Robinson (6'5" 220 lbs, Junior) --- (7.3 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 1.2 apg)

C –#52– Gary McGhee (6'10" 250 lbs, Senior) --- (6.5 ppg, 7.3 ppg, 1.4 bpg, 54% FG)

Key Reserves:

G –#1– Travon Woodall (5'11" 190 lbs, Sophomore) --- (7.0 ppg, 3.9 apg, 1.0 spg)

F –#11– Dante Taylor (6'9" 240 lbs, Sophomore) --- (7.2 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 70% FG)

F–#42– Talib Zanna (6'9" 225 lbs, Freshman) --- (4.8 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 58% FG)

F –#44– J.J. Moore (6'6" 200 lbs, Freshman) --- (4.6 ppg, 1.6 rpg, 50% FG)

G/F –#21– Lamar Patterson (6'5" 220 lbs, Freshman) --- (2.9 ppg, 1.9 rpg, 1.2 apg)

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