GAME NOTES: The Atlantic Coast Conference schedule tips off for both the Pittsburgh Panthers and the NC State Wolfpack at PNC Arena on Saturday afternoon.
Pitt has gotten off to an outstanding 12-1 start to the season, with its only loss coming to Cincinnati on Dec. 17 as part of the Jimmy V Classic at Madison Square Garden, 44-43. The Panthers have since rebounded with two straight wins over Cal Poly (73-56) and Albany (58-46), but this contest will mark their first true road game and their first-ever league matchup as an ACC member.
NC State played very well in its own right during non-conference action, winning 10 of its 13 matchups, including a 68-64 road triumph over UNC Greensboro on Monday night. The Wolfpack have performed well at home (8-2), although they lost their most recent game at PNC Arena to nationally-ranked Missouri on Dec. 28, 68-64.
The Wolfpack hold a decisive 9-1 advantage over Pitt in the all-time series, although the squads haven't played one another since 1991.
The Panthers were far from impressive in their most recent contest on the offensive end of the floor, as they shot 44.4 percent from the field (including 1-of-10 from 3-point range) and just 9-of-16 from the free-throw line, but they still cruised to a 12-point victory by holding Albany to a lowly 31.4 percent shooting from the field. Cameron Wright's strong all-around performance sparked the win, as he tallied 14 points, eight assists, eight rebounds and three steals. Lamar Patterson netted 14 points, while Talib Zanna narrowly missed a double-double with 10 points and nine rebounds.
Pitt has ran out to a fast start this season by boasting strong play on both ends of the court, as it outshoots its opponents from the field, 48 percent to 39.5 percent, for a +18.3 scoring margin while also living in the green in terms of rebounding (+10.4) and turnovers (+2.6). Patterson leads the way with 16.8 ppg on strong percentages from the field (.521), 3-point range (.429) and the free-throw line (.790), while adding a team-high 4.5 apg to boot. Zanna (11.8 ppg, 7.5 rpg) and Wright (11.3 ppg) have also been solid, both shooting greater than 51 percent from the field.
The Wolfpack nearly saw their 17-point second-half lead disappear down the stretch of their latest game against UNCG, but they managed to hold on for the victory despite posting disappointing percentages from the field (.407), beyond the arc (.167) and the foul line (.576). T.J. Warren was the spark plug in the triumph with 24 points and nine rebounds. Anthony Barber was just 4- of-14 from the field but still finished with 17 points and six assists, while Desmond Lee added 15 points.
Not unlike Pitt, NC State has been equally strong on offense and defense this season, as it outshoots its opponents from the field, 48.3 percent to 39.6 percent, for a +8.2 scoring margin. It has its weaknesses as well however, as it makes just 4.5 3-pointers per game at a 30.1 percent success rate while also shooting only 64.2 percent from the free-throw line. Warren has established himself as one of the nation's premiere scorers, ranking fourth in Division I with 23.9 ppg (on 54.1 percent from the field) to go with a team- high 7.8 rpg. Barber brings 12.2 ppg and 4.5 apg to the table, while Lee rounds of the double-digit scorers with 10.8 ppg.
Pittsburgh has yet to be challenged on the road, and heading into Reynolds Coliseum against a strong NC State squad will certainly be a tall order, but the Panthers have the ability to win anywhere and should force enough defensive pressure down the stretch to topple the Wolfpack, who have been vulnerable in recent weeks.
Game Date and Time