The key word to describe the Pnathers is balanced. Four of Pitt's five starters average double figures in scoring, while the fifth checks in at 9.0 points per game.
The Panther backcourt is paced by point guard Carl Krauser, who plays as much like a shooting guard as a classic point. Krauser (6-2, 200) can score from anywhere on the floor, and hurts opponents both with his shooting and with his ball distribution skills. He tallies 15.1 points per game while still leading the team in assists.
Paired with Krauser is high-flying Julius Page (6-3, 190). Page began his career with notoriety for his big dunks, but has grown into an all-around player. He averages 12.5 points per outing and hits 35.7% of his threes, the highest on the team among players with more than one attempt per game.
Up front, Jaron Brown (6-4, 230) and Chevon Troutman (6-7, 235) are an underrated pair of forwards that play in the classic mold. Neither takes many three-pointers, but both operate efficiently around the basket. They are also excellent defenders and rebounders. Brown has slightly better numbers (12.7 points, 5.7 rebounds) than Trautman (9.0 points, 6.1 rebounds) but neither player can be ignored offensively.
The big surprise for the Panthers is at center, where freshman Chris Taft (6-10, 230) has had an immediate impact. Taft scores 10.8 points to go with a team-leading 7.4 rebounds and 54 blocked shots.
Pitt's backcourt subs include Antonio Graves (6-3, 180) and Yuri Demetris (6-4, 205) who provide the bulk of Pitt's three point shooting off the bench. On the front line, Mark McCarroll (6-11, 220) and Toree Morris (6-10, 280) are a pair of big bodies that complement the smaller stature of Brown and Troutman. That five man rotation allows the Panthers to match up well against differing opponents' styles.
On offense, Sally will have a height advantage over Brown, and must exploit that slight edge to the fullest.
West Virginia will need a big game from Sally, both offensively and defensively, to stay in the game agaisnt the Panthers.
|Sat 2/21 7:00 p.m.|
WVU 14-8, 6-5
UP 23-2, 9-2
WVU - 66
UP - 10
|Margin: UP +8|
When West Virginia is in their 1-3-1 defense, Sally won't be facing Brown straight up, but will have an important task nonetheless. Sally will have to continue to make entry passes against the 1-3-1 difficult, but will also have to guard against the shooting prowess and penetration skills of point guard Carl Krauser, who plays that spot with a shooting guard's mentality. Pitt passes the ball extremely well, so Sally can't be lax in getting back to cover Krauser in the middle of the floor when the ball swings back to the stocky sophomore from the wing.
Pitt shoots the ball very well from the field, so Sally will have to be at his defensive best against the Panthers. He's likely to expend a tremendous amount of energy on defense, but somehow he has to summon the will to play at least 34-35 minutes at peak efficiency on both ends of the court.
Protecting the ball and valuing each possession are two of John Beilein's major points of emphasis, but they will have to be carried out almost flawlessly if WVU is to hang in against the Panthers. While Pitt does average 12.8 turnovers per game and just 5.4 steals per contest, they make the most of their possession with outstanding shooting from the field. Pitt doesn't bomb up a lot of three pointers, but those they do take are usually open shots, created by solid passing and crisp execution of their offense.
To keep pace, the Mountaineers must likewise make the most of their offensive possessions. WVU can't afford 16 turnovers and poor trips where they get bad shots or have to hurriedly fire up shot-clock beating heaves.
West Virginia must also trade some threes for twos - that is, hit some three-point shots in exchange for two-pointers from the Panthers. Pitt shoots the ball so well from the field that they can afford to be selective in their shots, and thus don't have to take a high number of threes. In this game, the three-pointer has the potential to be the great equalizer for WVU, but they have to 1) get open looks, and 2) make them. Beilein's bombers will likely have to make at least ten shots from downtown to give them a chance to pull off the upset.
Three of WVU's all-time top ten three-point field goal percentage leaders are currently wearing the Gold and Blue. Kevin Pittsnogle, Patrick Beilein and Joe Herber are all among that group. Pittsnogle is WVU's all-time career leader at 43.5 percent while Beilein is seventh at 38.2 percent and Herber 10th at 37.1 percent.
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Pitt still refuses to credit one WVU win against them, so they list the all-time series record as an 88-76 Mountaineer advantage.
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As part of the 100 years of Mountaineer basketball celebration, West Virginia will be wearing throwback replica uniforms for this game. The uniforms are replicas of those worn by the 1958-59 Mountaineers that posted a 29-5 record and a perfect 11-0 Southern Conference mark. After winning the Southern Conference tournament, the Mountaineers advanced all the way to the NCAA championship game before losing to California 71-70 in the final seconds.
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Even though they have won in each of their last two trips, Pitt is just 5-20 at the WVU Coliseum.