Steel City showdown pits Panthers against Dukes

Steel City rivals square off at CONSOL ranked Pittsburgh Panthers and Duquesne conference action.

Pittsburgh is 5-1 on the young season, topping the likes of Albany, Rider, La Salle, Penn and Robert Morris, while suffering its lone loss at home in a shocker to Long Beach State. The team's most recent outing took place against Robert Morris, and the Colonials played tough but still wound up on the short end of an 81-71 final. Pitt kicks off Big East Conference play at Notre Dame on December 27, and will face Tennessee and Oklahoma State before then.

Duquesne is fresh off an 84-65 win over Louisiana, which improved the club to 4-2 on the year. The Dukes' lone loss this season occurred in the opener against then 16th-ranked Arizona, and the team has four of its five games since. DU hopes to make some noise in the Atlantic 10 Conference this year, but to be taken seriously, the team will have to come up with some significant wins, particularly against ranked teams -- something its rarely done. In fact, the Dukes are 0-10 all-time against Pittsburgh when it comes in as a member of the top-25.

Pittsburgh owns a 48-31 series advantage over Duquesne, and the Panthers have won the last 10 meetings.

Despite shooting just 38.0 percent from the floor, Pitt's Ashton Gibbs has lived up to the hype which surrounded him coming into the season, as he is averaging 19.3 points and 3.5 assists per game. Help comes from Tray Woodall and Nasir Robinson, who net 15.0 and 13.8 ppg, respectively, and the former is also the team's primary playmaker, handing out 8.5 apg. As a collective unit, the Panthers are shooting a stellar 51.0 percent from the field, 44.6 percent from three-point range and just shy of 70 percent at the foul line. All that leads to 80.5 ppg. Defensively, the club is giving up 69.7 ppg, with foes hitting 46.2 percent of their total shots. Pitt averages right around 20 assists per contest and owns a +8.8 rebounding margin. Again, having not really faced what anyone would consider a quality opponent, the jury is still out on just how good this Panthers team is right now.

Duquesne has performed well at the offensive end of the court this season, putting up 78.8 ppg on the strength of its 47.9 percent field goal efficiency. The team would be in even better shape if it were able to make more than 29.4 percent of its three-point attempts. Additionally, this could be an undefeated bunch if not for a minus-10 rebounding margin. Defensively, the Dukes are permitting 73.2 ppg as the opposition connects on 45.3 percent of its total shots, and 40.0 percent of its long-range tries. The one area the team has really excelled in is forcing turnovers, as it does so for 19.5 per outing at this point. Sean Johnson (16.5 ppg) heads a list of four players currently averaging double figures in the scoring column. B.J. Monteiro (15.2 ppg), Eric Evans (11.8 ppg) and T.J. McConnell (11.5 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 6.1 apg) have all produced for DU this season, and the team is hoping that a few choice wins over the next month will better prepare for it for the battles that lie ahead in A-10 action.