Philadelphia, PA – The 17th-ranked Pittsburgh Panthers have traveled across the Keystone State to take on the Penn Quakers tonight in Philadelphia.
Pitt and Penn are meeting for the 14th time in history, with the Quakers clinging to a 7-6 edge in the series. This is the nightcap of three games being played today at the historic Palestra as part of the Philly Hoop Group Classic.
Pittsburgh is making its first appearance at the Palestra since 1986, and is 6-14 all-time there. With respect to this current season, the Panthers are 3-1 after posting double-digit wins over Albany, Rider and La Salle, and suffering a surprising 10-point loss to Long Beach State -- all at home. Following this contest, Pitt will face local rivals Robert Morris and Duquesne before playing at Tennessee in the Big East/SEC Challenge. A clash with Oklahoma State in New York City on December 10 will be another significant test for the Panthers, who kick off Big East Conference action at Notre Dame on December 27.
Penn has won three of its first five games this season, knocking off UMBC, Rider and Robert Morris, and losing to Temple and Wagner. In addition to this contest, the Quakers will face Villanova, UCLA and Duke as part of their non- conference slate, and playing well against those traditional national powers will hopefully have coach Jerome Allen's team better prepared for the Ivy League slate which begins at Columbia on January 13, 2012.
Jamie Dixon's Panthers were embarrassed by their home loss to Long Beach State, and popular thinking was they would destroy visiting La Salle the next time out. While able to secure a four-point win, it was hardly the dominant performance many had expected as Pitt committed 21 turnovers and hit the same number of field goals as did the Explorers. The difference in the game wound up being a 7-of-12 effort from three-point range and a 42-24 rebounding advantage. Nasir Robinson scored 17 points to lead four players in double figures, which is one more than the team has averaging after the first four games. Despite shooting just 38.2 percent from the field, guard Ashton Gibbs is netting a team-best 19.8 ppg. Backcourt mate Tray Woodall is next with 17.8 ppg, and he is hitting his total shots 62.5 percent of the time, and his three-pointers at a 58.3 percent clip. Robinson adds 16.5 ppg to the mix, and as well as Woodall is shooting, he is knocking down a remarkable 72.5 percent of his field goal attempts. Pittsburgh is averaging 81.0 ppg in hitting half of its total shots, which includes a sizzling 46.6 percent showing from beyond the arc. Add a +12.8 rebounding margin and it's easy to see why this team has won three of its first four games.
Penn isn't on the same level as tonight's opponent in most areas, but the Quakers have some weapons, most notably senior guard Zack Rosen. A 58.8 percent shooter overall who has knocked down 18-of-30 (.600) three-point tries and 87 percent of his free throws, Rosen is averaging 22.8 ppg. He adds more than five assists and four rebounds per outing to his stat line, and it's clear coach Allen would like to have his veteran court leader involved on every possession. Backcourt mates Tyler Bernadini (13.2 ppg, 5.6 rpg) and Miles Cartwright (12.0 ppg, 4.4 rpg) round out the unit's double-digit scorers, while up front a guy like 6-8 sophomore Fran Doughtery grabs 5.4 caroms per contest while coming up with nearly two blocked shots per game. Penn is netting 67.0 ppg while allowing 64.2 ppg, and the Quakers are holding the opposition to 37.6 percent field goal efficiency. Negative margins in both rebounding (-0.4) and turnovers (-1.4) have kept the team from reaching its full potential just yet, but it's a long season and there is plenty of time to reverse those trends. Rosen was high man once again in the recent loss to Wagner, dropping in 23 points on 6-of-11 shooting from the floor and a perfect 10-of-10 at the charity stripe.