4-1-Zoo: Previewing Pitt at Rutgers
PITTSBURGH — No. 2 Pitt returns to action at 8 p.m. at Rutgers, looking to rebound from its first conference loss of the season against Notre Dame.
The Panthers (19-2, 7-1 Big East) travel to Rutgers (12-8, 3-5) for just their fourth conference road game of the year. Pitt is undefeated in Big East road play thus far, beating Providence, Georgetown and DePaul. However, Pitt recently lost its first conference game of the year to Notre Dame at home, 56-51 — just the 12th loss ever at the Petersen Events Center.
Rutgers comes in to this game reeling as well, but in a much more severe way. The Scarlet Knights have lost six of their last nine games after opening the season with a 9-2 record. Rutgers is coached by former Robert Morris head coach, Mike Rice.
Ashton Gibbs (15.5 points per game) and Brad Wanamaker (12.7 ppg) lead the Panthers in scoring. Pitt has struggled shooting the ball recently and it hurt in a 40-percent showing against Notre Dame. The Panthers still lead the country in assists (19.3 per game) and are second in the country in rebounding (42.3 per game).
Rutgers is led by Jonathan Mitchell in scoring with 13.3 points per game. The Scarlet Knights are not a high scoring team, averaging just 67.1 points a game — good for 232nd in the nation. They’ll match up against Pitt’s offense, which is 25th in the nation at 78.6 points per game.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
For Pitt, the player to watch is Ashton Gibbs. He is the Panthers’ best shooter, but has struggled lately. Gibbs has shot 15-of-49 from the field — just under 31 percent — and 9-of-25 from 3-point range. He needs to be a reliable shooter for Pitt to be successful in conference play.
On Rutgers’ side, Dane Miller is definitely worth the attention of Pitt’s defense. A 6-foot-7 small forward, Miller averages almost 10 points a game along with 6 rebounds, 2 blocks and 1 steal. He’s arguably the Knight’s most complete player.
The battle in the front court. In both games Pitt has lost this year— against Tennessee at Consol Energy Center and at the Petersen Events Center against Notre Dame — the rebounding totals have been close.The Volunteers held a four-rebound advantage, 32-28, and Pitt outrebounded the Irish by just 6, 29-23.
That isn’t what Pitt wants to do.
The Panthers typically have a dominant edge in rebounding, ranking second in the nation in that category with 42.3 a game. On the flip side, Rutgers averages just 33.8. If Pitt wins the rebounding battle it wins. If Rutgers can out-man the Panthers on the boards this game could be close.
Teams that score 70 points or more against Rutgers are 7-1 against the Scarlet Knights.
Chris Gates | Area 4-1-Zoo Blog