Pittsburgh is 6-1 on the young season, although coach Jamie Dixon's club hasn't been as dominant as its demonstrated in years past. Sure, the Panthers own a +10.9 scoring margin, but they are giving up nearly 70 ppg, and the bulk of the scoring differential comes from a pair of lopsided wins -- 89-56 in the opener against Albany, and a 78-58 romp over Penn. Pitt's lone setback came at home against Long Beach Srare, and the team is coming off an 80-69 win over local rival Duquesne.
Tennessee is under the direction of first-year head coach Cuonzo Martin, and the Volunteers have posted a 3-3 mark after the first half dozen games. Two of the three losses came against ranked foes in Duke and Memphis during the recently completed Maui Invitational, but the third setback took place this past Monday at Oakland in an 89-81 final. UT is 2-0 at home this season, and beginning with this contest, the Vols are embarking on a stretch of games during which six of seven will be played at Thompson-Boling Arena.
Tennessee owns a 4-1 advantage in the all-time series with Pittsburgh, and the Vols claimed an 83-76 win over the third-ranked Panthers in the Steel City last season.
As mentioned, Pittsburgh has produced offensively this season, netting 80.4 ppg on the strength of its 51.4 percent overall shooting effort, which includes a sizzling 45.8 percent effort from three-point range. At the other end, the Panthers are allowing foes to hit nearly 47 percent of their total shots despite logging a +11 rebounding margin. Ashton Gibbs is averaging a team-high 19.1 ppg thanks to his 24-of-56 (.429) showing from beyond the arc, while Tray Woodall is next with 14.1 ppg while also serving as the club's primary playmaker with 8.3 assists per outing. Unfortunately for Woodall and the Panthers, he is expected to miss the next month or so after suffering a groin injury in the win over Duquesne. Nasir Robinson (12.9 ppg, 4.3 rpg) is the unit's third and final double-digit scorer at the moment. Gibbs poured in 18 points, and Dante Taylor came off the bench to generate a double-double with 15 points and 11 boards to help lead Pitt to victory over the Dukes. Lamar Patterson chipped in 10 points for the Panthers, who shot 53.7 percent from the field, nailing 11-of-21 three-pointers along the way. Pittsburgh did commit 23 turnovers, and allowed the Dukes to shoot 52.1 percent from the floor, but a whopping 39-15 edge on the glass was crucial to the outcome.
Tennessee is pretty much in the same boat as Pittsburgh in that it has had very little trouble generating offense (84.7 ppg), but has given the opposition way too much leeway at the defensive end (75.0 ppg). The Volunteers are hitting their field goals at a 47.3 percent clip, with 43.5 percent of their long-range tries finding the bottom of the net. They are +4.8 in rebounding, but they commit an average of 1.5 turnovers per game more than their opponents. UT currently has four players averaging double figures in the scoring column, led by Trae Golden and his 17.0 ppg. A 43-percent shooter from downtown, Golden also sets his teammates up to the tune of 6.2 apg. Jordan McRae (15.3 ppg), Jeronne Maymon (13.3 ppg) and Cameron Tatum (11.3 ppg) round out the offensive-minded quartet, and Maymon (8.8 rpg) serves as the team's top glass cleaner. McRae has posted back-to-back 25-point games, the most recent coming in defeat as the Vols dropped an eight-point decision at Oakland earlier this week. Tatum added 19 points and Golden another 12, but Tennessee watched helplessly as the Golden Grizzlies converted 28-of-31 free-throw attempts, and put four players in double figures, including Reggie Hamilton, who scored 35 points to fuel his club.