A pair of teams hoping to remain relevant in the race for the Big East Conference title get together on Saturday afternoon, as the 16th-ranked Pittsburgh Panthers come calling on the 18th-ranked Marquette Golden Eagles.
Both teams have enjoyed stellar seasons to this point, with Pittsburgh logging a 20-5 overall record and an 8-4 conference mark, and Marquette coming in with a 17-6 tally on the season, which includes an 8-3 league ledger. Both are within striking distance of the top spot, currently being occupied by Georgetown (19-4, 9-3)
The Panthers have won three straight and seven of their last eight games overall, and they will be seeking their second consecutive road victory after taking down Cincinnati at Fifth Third Arena last Saturday, 62-52.
The Golden Eagles are looking for a return to the win column after suffering a 63-55 setback at Georgetown on Monday night, the loss putting an end to a brief two-game win streak. MU is a perfect 13-0 at home this season, and the team has won 22 straight at home, which is the fourth-longest active streak in the country.
Marquette downed Pittsburgh in the Steel City back on Jan. 12, 74-67, in overtime to tie the all-time series at 8-8. The Panthers have however, won four of the last six meetings.
Pittsburgh nets a respectable 71.0 ppg behind a typical shooting effort 48.3 percent from the field, and does so by utilizing a balanced attack that features three double-digit scorers, but none of which average more than Tray Woodall's 10.9 ppg. One of the top playmakers in the Big East, Woodall (5.3 apg) serves his teammates well, and they've responded with Talib Zanna (10.6 ppg, 6.0 rpg) and Lamar Patterson (10.1 ppg, 4.2 rpg) doing their best to control the game in the frontcourt. Pitt is the best defensive team in the league, allowing a mere 54.4 ppg in claiming a conference-best +16.6 scoring margin. The Panthers also rank atop the Big East in rebounding margin (+8.0), while coming in second in assists (17.0 apg), and third in turnover margin (+3.3). Woodall hit for 14 points, Steven Adams had 13 and Zanna nearly logged a double-double with 11 points and nine rebounds, all of which Pitt used to topple Cincinnati on the road last week. The Panthers swarmed to the ball on defense, limiting the Bearcats to 30.8 percent field goal efficiency, which included a dismal 4-of-25 showing from beyond the arc.
Marquette boasts only two double-digit scorers in the form of Vander Blue (14.6 ppg, 3.2 rpg) and Davante Gardner (11.6 ppg, 5.0 rpg), and the team is putting up 69.4 ppg behind 46.1 percent accuracy from the field, but only 29.5 percent from 3-point range. In the recent loss to Georgetown, Jamil Wilson was high man for the Golden Eagles with 13 points off the bench, and Chris Otule led the starters with 11 points. The team as a whole shot 43.5 percent from the floor compared to just 38.5 percent for the Hoyas, but a 17-11 deficit in points from the foul line coupled with the fact that the team turned the ball over a whopping 19 times, off which GU scored 24 points, certainly contributed to the disappointing outcome.