Pittsburgh - Penn St Preview

The rap on Pittsburgh, here and most everywhere else, is that the Panthers don't play a challenging nonconference schedule. While that may lead to fewer games on national television and duller packages for season-ticket holders, it doesn't look like it affects the team's readiness for a top foe.

It happened last season, when the Panthers took the conference by storm despite a cakewalk of a pre-conference slate. And judging by the 70-51 dismantling of Memphis on Dec. 7, the Panthers could be revving themselves up for a repeat performance this year.

Both the offense and the defense survived the step up in competition, thriving before a national TV audience. Carl Krauser was able to dominate the Tigers as much as he does the Panthers' usual Northeast Conference opponents, and Chris Taft was equally dominant inside.

Moreover, the 71 points qualify as an offensive explosion, though it needs to be pointed out that Memphis has a hard time guarding stationary objects, much less the Panthers.

The Panthers now resume their regularly-scheduled pre-conference snoozefest, but it's served notice that it will be ready to attack Big East foes once the hibernation ends in January.

NOTES: While the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic at Madison Square Garden was technically a neutral site game, it served as a home away from home for many of the Panthers. Seven members of the squad are from the New York City area, including Carl Krauser and Chris Taft. The Panthers are 12-4 at Madison Square Garden over the past four years.

Krauser finished with 17 points despite going 1-9 from the field. He went to the line 18 times, making 15 free throws.

Pittsburgh still has not allowed an opponent to score more than 60 points this season.

LINEUP: Point guard Carl Krauser, shooting guard Antonio Graves, center Chris Taft, forward Yuri Demetris, forward Chevon Troutman.

Taft Speaks:  "Going into this game everyone said Pitt didn't play anybody. We just went out there with the attitude that we wanted to blow them out." -- Sophomore center Chris Taft, on the Panthers' victory over Memphis.

Todays Game: at Penn State, Saturday, Dec. 11.

This is the last game the Panthers have before exams, so the big key will be not losing focus and looking past the Nittany Lions. Penn State has played some teams tough this season, but there's no reason a Big East favorite should lose to a team at the bottom of the Big Ten, even if it's an in-state rival on the road.

* Pitt got a verbal commitment from Levance Fields, a 6-0, 185-pound point guard from Brooklyn. Fields chose Pittsburgh over St. John's, and says he will sign in the spring signing period. He joins Tyrell Biggs, Sam Young and Doyle Hudson in the recruiting class.

Jamie Dixon seems to have his rotation in place. Nine Panthers average 12 minutes or more per game, and none more than Carl Krauser's 29.5.

At this point, the stat leader sheet for the Panthers has only three names on it: Chevon Troutman, Chris Taft and Carl Krauser have led the team in points and rebounds every game thus far.

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