MBB: Rutgers travels to Pitt

Next up for the Rutgers Scarlet Knights (9-11) will be the #13 Pitt Panthers (16-3) as they travel to Pittsburgh for a 6:00 start at the Peterson Events Center. The steadily improving Knights will be facing a banged up Pitt team that will be missing two starters and two solid bench players. Pitt has posted a 5-2 record since losing their starters and may be vulnerable to an upset.

Rutgers appears to have found some team chemistry following two very impressive back to back games. Although they lost a heartbreaking 2 point game on the road at Depaul, they had found a scoring rhythm and came back to drub #18 Villanova just days later. Rutgers, who had been having trouble breaking the 50 point mark, averaged an amazing 76.5 points in those contests. Much of the credit for the victory over Villanova was earned by guards Anthony Farmer, Mike Coburn and Corey Chandler, as their defensive efforts took away the offensive flow of the Wildcats. On the offensive end, Farmer and Coburn each scored career highs of 23 points each, with 14 more coming from Chandler.

Pittsburgh is a very good team this season and have recently been a tough opponent for the Scarlet. Rutgers has now lost eight contests in a row to the Panthers. They have not won since a home victory in 2001 and have not beaten Pitt on the road since 1996. The Knights have played to a 22-20 advantage over the years, including an 8-9 mark while playing as guests of the Panthers.

As previously mentioned, Pitt has lost starting sr. forward Mike Cook to a torn ACL and starting jr point guard LeVance Fields with a broken foot. Top soph reserve Austin Wallace joins them with a broken patella while junior Cassin Diggs has been suffering from groin and hip injuries. Freshman center DeJuan Blair is a dominant force under the basket but is prone to foul trouble. When he is forced to sit for extended stretches, Pitt tends to become inconsistent and no longer resembles a Big East contender. This could be their Achilles heel.

Recently the bulk of the playing time has landed on the shoulders of six players, with three others stepping up and offering some well played relief roles. Pitt’s depth and athleticism has kept the foundation from caving in and the Panthers remain a very competitive basketball team.

PROJECTED STARTERS:

G - #1 – Keith Benjamin (6’2” 190 sr) – 9.3ppg, 47.8%fg, 41.3% 3pt, 78.3%ft

G - #4 – Ronald Ramon (6’1” 185 sr) – 8.2ppg, 38.9%fg, 38.1% 3pt, 75.8%ft

F - #23 – Sam Young (6’6” 215 jr) - 18.6ppg, 52.4%fg, 46% 3pt, 70.5% ft, 6.9rpg, 17 blocks

F - #11 – Gilbert Brown (6’6” 200 fr) - 5.4ppg, 44.6%fg, 30%3pt, 81%ft

C - #45 – DeJuan Blair (6’7” 265 fr) – 11.8ppg, 54.7%fg, 61.5%ft, 9.4rpg, 27 blocks, 38 steals

KEY RESERVES:

F - #5 – Tyrell Biggs (6’8” 240 jr)

C - #52 – Gary McGhee (6’10” 250 fr)

G - #22 – Brad Wanamaker (6’4” 200 fr)

G - #24 – Tim Frye (6’4” 190 fr)

Sam Young and Dejuan Blair remain huge threats for the Panthers and are having good years. The Panthers as a team, are excellent foul shooters, have three healthy 3 point shooters and take high percentage shots from the field, thus very difficult to beat. Rutgers is suddenly playing with confidence and has grown as a team. Relentless defense, playing for pride, showing a great deal of passion has become their current hallmark. These are two different teams than what we saw during the first half of the season. Enjoy.

MEDIA NOTES:

TIP OFF – Saturday, January 26 -- 6:00 PM
TV – ESPN Classic
Radio: WOR 710 AM, WCTC 1450 AM, WRSU 88.7 FM

Rutgers (9-11, 1-6 BE)… #13 Pitt (16-3, 4-2 BE)


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