Pitt-Oklahoma State Preview

The Pitt men's basketball team is in its toughest non-conference stretch after wins at Duquesne and Washington, and it won't get any easier against Oklahoma State (5-3) Saturday at noon at the Petersen Events Center.

The game will be televised nationally by ESPN.

The 11th-ranked Panthers (9-0) have just completed final exams week and at least are home for the only time between Dec. 1 and Jan. 2 games with Toledo and Lafayette, respectively. Pittsburgh, one of 15 unbeaten teams nationally, is gunning for its fifth straight 10-0 start to a season.

"It's never a good situation,'' Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said, as he prepared for the Cowboys with a less-than-complete team all week due to finals. "When I was an assistant, I was always out recruiting this week, so I didn't have to know what was going on. The practices, usually, just are not that good.''

This is Oklahoma State's return trip after it defeated the Panthers 95-89 in double-overtime at the All-College Classic in Oklahoma City, Dec. 21, 2006. Pitt is 3-4 all-time against Okie State. Prior to last year's matchup, Pitt and Oklahoma State met in the 2004 NCAA Regionals, a 63-51 OSU victory at Continental Airlines Arena in East Rutherford, N.J. OSU has won three straight in the series. The Cowboys are on a hot streak after a slow start with three straight wins, including a 96-71 decision against Washington in Stillwater.

"It was a good game against Oklahoma State last season, but we gave up way too many points,'' Pitt senior guard Ronald Ramon said. "So, we have to tighten up or defense against them this year. It's going to be a tough game.''

After rotating all available players earlier this season, Dixon apparently has shortened his bench to eight. Freshman guard Brad Wanamaker did not play at Washington and has tallied just 10 total minutes the past three games. Junior center Cassin Diggs and freshman center Gary McGhee did not play in the past two games at Washington or at Duquesne.

Pitt's five starters played 28 minutes against the Huskies. Junior point guard Levance Fields and freshman center DeJuan Blair played a season-high 36 and 31 minutes, respectively. Blair averages a team-high nine rebounds a game to go with 10.9 points, while Fields scores 10.2 points per game.

The other starters are expected to be senior Mike Cook and junior Sam Young at the forward spots, while Ramon is the other guard. Young leads the Panthers 18.1 points per game to go with 7.9 rebounds. Cook averages 10.8 points per game, while Ramon is at 7.4.

"We know when we don't play well, and we haven't started as quickly as we would like,'' Cook said. "We have to get off to a better start against Oklahoma State this week, and we need to keep it up. That's the way to be successful.''

Oklahoma State coach Sean Sutton has gone with a four-guard lineup recently, as three first-year post players are learning on the job and splitting time.

The Cowboys have lost at North Texas and at Ilinois and by 30 points at home to Big East foe Marquette.

A win against OSU would give Pitt its seventh straight season with 10 or more non-conference wins. In addition, Pitt has won 26 consecutive home games against non-conference opponents at the Pete. The Panthers are attempting to break their record for most consecutive home wins against non-conference opponents which is 28 and was set from Nov. 23, 2003-Jan. 2, 2005.

Earlier in the year, Pitt also surpassed the one million mark for attendance in games played at the Petersen Events Center. Pitt now has had 1,011,755 fans attend games in the six-year old arena.

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