Marquette Golden Eagles (16-8, 7-5 BIG EAST) vs. No. 19/21 Pittsburgh Panthers (19-6, 8-4 BIG EAST)
Bradley Center– Milwaukee, WI
Time: Thursday, 8:00 pm CST
Coverage: ESPN2 (Dave Pasch play-by-play, Len Elmore analyst)
Since the expansion of the BIG EAST conference in 2005, only two schools have one at least 10 games in each of the past four seasons.
It is not Louisville or Georgetown.
And it's not Connecticut or Villanova.
That's right. Marquette and Pittsburgh have both been the epitome of consistency over the past four years. It should also not come as a surprise to see both schools within striking distance of double digit wins again this season.
On Thursday night, one school will inch closer to yet another BIG EAST season with double-figure wins when the two schools tangle at 8 p.m. CT at the Bradley Center.
The Golden Eagles (16-8, 7-5 BIG EAST) enter the game as winners of five straight after defeating South Florida 63-52 on Saturday Night at the Bradley Center.
Meanwhile, the Panthers (19-6, 8-4 BIG EAST) are coming off a thrilling 98-95 three-overtime win over rival West Virginia.
Although, both schools roster's have changed quite a bit over the last year, since the two team's met up last year, Thursday's game will provide a compelling matchup between teams fighting for positioning in the standings in the ultra-competitive BIG EAST conference.
"Coach (Jamie) Dixon has won 78 percent of his games since he has been at Pitt, said Marquette coach Buzz Williams. "We will have our hands full from the very beginning. The seven guys that have that are returning, I think, have been magnificent."
While some of the name's on the back on the back of the jerseys have changed, MU fans can expect to see a Panther team that is similar in style to years past.
"I think they're very similar (to past Pittsburgh teams) on both ends on the floor," Williams said. "They're probably a little bit more perimeter oriented in relation to the number of shots [taken]."
Guards have been the key this year for Pitt. Sophomore Ashton Gibbs leads the team in scoring at just under 17 points per game and has to be one of the top contenders for the BIG EAST's most improved player after averaging just four points per game last season.
Junior Brad Wannamaker and Senior Jermaine Dixon join Gibbs in the backcourt and score 13- and 10- points-per-game, respectively. Wannamaker has a knack for being a great all-around player as he averages over six rebounds and four assists per game. Dixon, who has only appeared in 16 games for the Panthers after breaking his foot over the summer, is a sound perimeter defender and is a heady player on offense.
Travon Woodall and Gilbert Brown come off the bench to provide relief for the three players mentioned above. Woodall, a redshirt freshman, made some big plays in the win over West Virginia and does a good job of finding the open teammate. Brown, who may be more appropriately be labeled as a wing, is a big-time athlete. When he is not soaring over defenders for monstrous dunks, he is attacking the rim or hitting open three-pointers.
In the frontcourt, Gary McGhee leads the way at 7 points- and 7 rebounds-per-game. The 6-foot-10 junior has made giant strides this year after playing just six minutes-per-game last year. When he gets good positioning on the block, he is tough to stop. Joining him in the starting lineup is the undersized Nasir Robinson. At 6-foot-5 Robinson uses his body well to finish down low. He also has the ability to step out and hit mid-range and three-point shots.
Two freshman aid McGhee and Robinson off the bench. Dante Taylor, a McDonalds All-American in 2009, has seen his minutes decrease of late but he certainly has the ability to hurt Marquette. Another freshman, J.J. Richardson, has only played 70 minutes all season but 33 of them have come in the last four games.
Both offensively and defensively the Panthers would prefer to play at a slower-pace. When they have the ball they are patient and want to get the best shot possible, whether on the blocks, at the three-point line or the free-throw line. Defensively, they play a conservative man-to-man defense and rarely go for steals.
One thing to watch for on Thursday night, is Marquette's three-point shooting. The Golden Eagles are second best in the country at 42.3 percent while the Panther's are allowing opponents to shoot just over 30 percent from downtown.
Pittsburgh Projected Starters:
G –#12– Ashton Gibbs (6'2" 190 lbs, Sophomore) --- (16.8 ppg, 1.8 apg, 39% 3pt)
G –#24– Jermaine Dixon (6'3" 200 lbs, Senior) --- (10.3 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 2.3 apg)
G –#22– Brad Wannamaker (6'4" 210 lbs, Junior) --- (12.8 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 4.4 apg, 35% 3pt)
F –#35– Nasir Robinson (6'5" 220 lbs, Sophomore) --- (6.5 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 1.5 apg)
C –#52– Gary McGhee (6'10" 250 lbs, Junior) --- (7.3 ppg, 7.0 ppg, 1.6 bpg, 65% FG)
G/F –#5– Gilbert Brown (6'6" 200 lbs, Junior) --- (11.2 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 39% 3PT)
G –#1– Travon Woodall (5'11" 190 lbs, Freshman) --- (4.9 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 3.4 apg)
F –#11– Dante Taylor (6'9" 240 lbs, Freshman) --- (4.0 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 55% FG)
F/C –#55– J.J. Richardson (6'7" 235 lbs, Freshman) --- (1.1 ppg, 1.0 rpg, 75% FG)
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