Ashton Gibbs vs. Eli Carter
Despite the four-game losing streak, Gibbs continues to reach double figures. He's reached double figures in 15 of Pitt's 16 games this season. He had his best three-point shooting performance against DePaul (2-5, .400) after a three-game stretch where he converted just 3 of 16 attempts (.187). Carter is Rutgers' counterpart in terms of scoring. Though Gibbs will play at the one or the two depending on who his backcourt teammate is, he'll go toe-to-toe with Carter, Rutgers' leading scorer (14.2 points a game).
John Johnson vs. Jerome Seagears
Johnson got his first career start against DePaul, and came away with 10 points in 28 minutes. Johnson provides a spark when he's in there, but he's still struggling turning the ball over. He's averaged 4 assists over the last three games, but has turned the ball over 3 times in each of the last two games. Though Pitt didn't win with him in the starting lineup, he provides more of an offensive spark than Cameron Wright. At this juncture of the season, however, Pitt needs a spark on the defensive end. Johnson is not there yet defensively, even though his future on the offensive end looks bright. Seagears is also a freshman, and is shooting 42.9 percent from the field. Johnson has the edge in three-point percentage (14-55, .455; Seagears 10-39, .256)
Lamar Patterson vs. Dane Miller
With Pitt needing a spark defensively, this is a matchup that will be a challenge. Miller, at 6-7, isn't a threat from three-point range, but he's strong from mid-range and is the team's second-leading rebounder. Despite losing out on the height advantage, Patterson has played the four—and that versatility may help him here. Depite Pitt's three-point shooting woes in recent games, Patterson has hit 50 percent of his three-point shots in the last two games.
Nasir Robinson vs. Gilvydas Biruta
Robinson has reached double-figures in his last three games, but is coming off his worst field goal percentage (.363) of the season against DePaul. He'll have his hands full with Biruta—Rutgers' leading rebounder (5.4 a game). Biruta grabbed just three rebounds in the Scarlet Knights' recent loss to UConn, a game where the Huskies owned the boards 38-28. Despite losing in the rebounding department, the Scarlet Knights won 67-60—showing they can still win when they're outmanned inside.
Dante Taylor vs. Derrick Randall
Jamie Dixon said Monday that he's not concerned with his inside game—citing that it would be tougher to add a player like Malcolm Gilbert to the mix, citing he's pleased with that production. Still, Taylor has got in foul trouble in two of the first three Big East games (Notre Dame, DePaul). At DePaul last Thursday, Taylor played just 10 minutes. Much like Biruta—Randall led the team with five rebounds, and the Scarlet Knights were still able to beat UConn. Even if Pitt gets help from Taylor—something they badly need—it might not be a factor in whether they win or not.
Cameron Wright, J.J. Moore, Talib Zanna vs. Myles Mack, Mike Poole, Austin Johnson, Malick Kone
The Rutgers bench lineup of Mack, Poole, Johnson and Kone outscored their UConn counterparts 25-13, which more than made the difference in the win over the Huskies. Mack and Poole do the most damage, with the ability to score in double-figures. Mack is the team's second-leading scorer, averaging 10.8 points a game.
The play of Moore and Zanna will be most key in this game. Pitt's biggest concern is not so much getting offensive productivity from the bench, as much as it will be getting defensive play. Zanna may be pressed into stepping up sooner if Taylor gets in foul trouble. Moore may come in to match up with Miller. Regardless, with the threat of a couple of players who can score, Pitt's bench needs to step up on the defensive end and play like starters. Even if it's not Rutgers, Dixon, Gibbs and Patterson all echoed the same sentiment—Pitt needs to cut down on its turnovers and play better defense. That starts with Pitt's bench play.