PITTSBURGH — Big East Conference play starts tonight for both No. 6 Pitt (12-1) and No. 4 UConn (10-0) at 8:30 p.m. at the Petersen Events Center.
Pitt is 7-0 all time at the Pete against AP top 5 teams and looks to improve that mark against the Huskies. UConn is undefeated so far in 2010 at 10-0 with quality wins against No. 2 Michigan State and No. 9 Kentucky in the EA Sports Maui Invitational. Meanwhile, the Panthers have won two in a row after a loss to Tennesse, blowing out Maryland Eastern Shore and American.
This is the only matchup this season between Pitt and UConn, barring a meeting in the Big East Tournament in early March.
The Huskies are led by guard Kemba Walker, who has scored 20 or more points in nine straight games. He leads a very young group that features 7 freshmen — many play pivotal roles.
It’s not just Walker, though. Alex Oriakhi has had a good start to the year, averaging 11.3 points and nearly 10 rebounds a game.
Defensively, UConn is holding opponents to less than 63 points a game, allowing over 70 points just twice. The Huskies held both Michigan State and Kentucky to 67 points in the two wins.
Pitt’s team defense against Walker. The Panthers have already seen what a hot shooter can do to them this year — Scotty Hopson’s 27 points for Tennessee in an 83-76 loss — and can’t afford to let Walker to do the same.
Many of Walker’s points come in transition, similar to Hopson, so he must be limited early on. Allowing him to get on the board early and often could result in a second loss in a game that will be pivotal in the conference standings as the year progresses.
PLAYER TO WATCH:
Pitt small forward Gilbert Brown. He is the most athletic player on the team and will likely see some time trying to prevent Walker from getting to his game. Brown didn’t do well in that regard against Hopson against Tennessee, but has since rebounded with impressive performances.
Brown scored 28 points against Maryland Eastern Shore and 15 against American. The big knock on him throughout his career has been consistency. A big game against UConn will be huge for his confidence as well as the team.
UConn — The Huskies currently rank second in the nation in blocked shots, averaging 7.9 a game.
Pitt — The Panthers are just ahead of UConn as the most successful program in the Big East over the last 10 years with a winning percentage of .796 (257-66).
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. UConn 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 7:30 p.m. and the live blog will start around 8 p.m. Hope to see you there!!!
Chris Gates | Area 4-1-Zoo Blog