Pittsburgh Panthers Team Report

He is just a freshman, but big man Chris Taft has played his way into a prominent role for the Panthers.<br><br> Taft has started the past seven games, and the way he's playing he may not see the bench again. Entering the week, he was averaging 12.5 points and 7.2 rebounds as a starter, as well as 3.3 blocks.

Moreover, his stats are even better if you only count Big East games. He's averaging 15.2 points per league game, and has scored 17 points three times in conference play, versus Virginia Tech, Miami and Rutgers.

However, Taft will get the biggest tests of his young career this week. After facing UConn and Player of the Year candidate Emeka Okafor (Taft had eight points and seven rebounds in 33 minutes), he'll get a matchup with ... Syracuse and Player of the Year candidate Hakim Warrick.

For both Taft and the Panthers, it's a big-time opportunity. Both have put up gaudy numbers, but seem to have escaped the kind of attention that usually follows.

Next Up
Jan. 24 at Syracuse - It's only January, but this has the feel of Exam Week for the Panthers. After losing at UConn, the Panthers will need to be at their best to beat the Orange at Syracuse. Even that might not be enough.

Probable Lineup - Guard Carl Krauser, guard Julius Page, forward Chris Taft, forward Chevon Troutman, forward Jaron Brown.

Panthers Notes

  • Pittsburgh had an 18-game winning streak snapped with a 68-65 loss to UConn on Jan. 19.
  • By starting the season 18-0, Jamie Dixon took third place on the college basketball's list of consecutive wins by a rookie head coach. Bill Guthridge was fourth with 17 wins. Second is Norman Shepard, who won 26 straight at North Carolina in 1923-24.
  • Pittsburgh is allowing just 56.6 points per game. Opponents are shooting 39.1 percent from the field, 32.6 percent from three-point range.
  • Chevon Troutman is averaging less than 10 points per game, but he's been effective when he shoots the basketball. He's made 63 of his 92 attempts, a .685 shooting percentage.

Quote to Note
"I don't think he gets enough credit for what he does on the floor. He's diving on the floor, hitting 3s, rebounding, keeping missed foul shots alive. Jaron is playing really well, like a senior is supposed to. He's keeping the team together in crunch time." -- Carl Krauser on teammate Jaron Brown, in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

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