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Pitt

4-1-Zoo: Previewing Pitt vs. American

Gary McGhee, Damian Saunders,  Eric Evans

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PITTSBURGH — Tonight’s game is big in more ways than one.

STORYLINE:

The most important is clear: Pitt coach Jamie Dixon can earn his 200th career win against American, becoming the 12th fastest coach in the last 40 years to ever accomplish such a feat. Dixon has coached 255 games as head coach.

The Panthers (11-1), now ranked No. 6 in the nation, have another reason to perform well, though. Tonight marks the final non-conference game before Big East play begins Monday against No. 4 UConn.

American presents a few intriguing matchups for the Panthers, specifically in the front court.

SCOUTING REPORT:

American comes in to this game reeling a bit after a hot start to the season. The Eagles won five in a row to start the year but have lost four of their last six games. The competition has been tough at times, playing games against West Virginia, Florida and Northwestern — all losses.

This program has experienced a decent amount of success over the last few years. Despite an 11-win season last year, the Eagles won more than 20 games the previous two seasons and appeared in the NCAA Tournament.

KEY MATCHUP:

Pitt’s front court against American’s front court. The Panthers weren’t terribly effective down low against Tennessee two games ago in an 83-76 loss. It was the first time Pitt had been outrebounded all season.

Most recently the Panthers defeated Maryland Eastern Shore, which didn’t present a comparable threat down low. Watch the likes of Gary McGhee, Dante Taylor, Talib Zanna and Nasir Robinson and how they compete against the Eagles duo of Vlad Moldoveanu and Stephen Lumpkins. One brings the offense and the other bangs the boards — both very effectively.

PLAYER TO WATCH:

Senior Vlad Moldoveanu is the most important player to shut down in the American offense. He averages just over 19 points a game and stands at 6-foot-9 and 215 pounds.

He hasn’t just done it against soft competition either. He scored 19 against West Virginia, 14 against Florida and 21 against Northwestern. He’s a decent rebounder as well, averaging over five a game.

INTERESTING STATS:

Pitt — The Panthers lead the entire country in assists, averaging 20.8 a game. They set a record for a Jamie Dixon coached team with 33 Saturday against Maryland Eastern Shore

American — The Eagles have played most of their games away from home with good success. They are 5-2 on the road and will try to be just the second non-conference foe to win at the Petersen Events Center (83-1) in its existence.

LIVEBLOG:

You can join me in a live chat tonight while you watch the game! Just log on to 937thefan.com and click on the ‘Pitt vs. American Live Blog” post. There you will find the link to the live blog.

I’ll give you play by play of the action and my thoughts as the game goes on. You’re welcome to fire your thoughts back in real time. In simpler words, we’ll have a conversation during the game.

The live blog post will appear around 6 p.m. and the live blog will start around 6:30 p.m. Hope to see you there!!!

Chris Gates | Area 4-1-Zoo Blog
Twitter.com/Chris_Gates
Chris.Gates@cbsradio.com