GAME NOTES: The Marquette Golden Eagles have made the trek to the Steel City for Saturday's Big East Conference showdown with the Pittsburgh Panthers.
Marquette is 11-3 on the season, and the team has won its first two conference bouts by slipping past both Connecticut (82-76 in OT) and Georgetown (49-48) at home. As a result, the Golden Eagles can secure just their fifth 3-0 start in league play since beginning conference affiliation back in 1989-90. Overall, MU has won four straight contests, but the team is 0-2 in true road games this season.
Pittsburgh had won 12 of its first 13 games to earn a spot in the Top-25, but the start of the Big East ledger put an end to that as the team dropped consecutive decisions to Cincinnati (70-61) and Rutgers (67-62). A 73-45 shellacking of Georgetown got the Panthers back on track, and they'll try to move to 11-1 at home this season with a win today.
Pittsburgh leads the all-time series with Marquette by the slimmest of margins, 8-7, but it was the Golden Eagles who prevailed in the most recent encounter, taking a 62-57 verdict in Milwaukee last year.
Not flashy by any means, Marquette simply goes about its business by playing solid defense and getting just enough offensive production from its key players, only two of which average double digits in the scoring column. Vander Blue (13.2 ppg) and Davante Gardner (12.9 ppg, 5.2 rpg) have done their part to help the Golden Eagles succeed, as has Junior Cadougan (9.6 ppg, 4.7 apg) despite his insistence that he is a 3-point shooter (5-of-29, .172) on a team that shoots well from the field overall (.467), but struggles from long range (.296). In the recent win over Georgetown, Blue and Gardner each tallied 12 points, and Trent Lockett nearly had himself a double-double by contributing nine points and 10 rebounds. The Golden Eagles shot just 36.4 percent from the floor, missing 13 of their 17 3-point attempts along the way, but they held the Hoyas to 39.1 percent overall efficiency, won the rebounding battle (35-26), and outscored GU at the foul line (13-7).
Pitt also took care of Georgetown in its last outing, but the Panthers had a much easier time of it as they knocked down 55.1 percent of their total shots, including 5-of-8 3-point tries, while holding the Hoyas 35.1 percent field goal efficiency, which included a dismal 2-of-12 showing from beyond the arc. Talib Zanna led Pittsburgh with 15 points, hitting 7-of-9 field goal attempts, while Tray Woodall put forth a solid all-around effort in delivering 11 points and seven assists. GU committed 17 turnovers and had only five assists in the game. Zanna continues to pace the Panthers in scoring, netting 13.2 ppg on the strength of his stellar .630 field goal percentage. He also serves as one of the team's top rebounders with 5.7 rpg, joining Steven Adams (6.1 rpg) in helping Pitt win the battle on the boards by an average of 8.3 rpg. The Panthers are guilty of only 9.4 tpg, while at the same time goading the opposition into more than 14 per outing.
This should be an entertaining game between two teams that aren't about to give the other a ton of free chances. Expect a low-scoring affair and for the Panthers to prevail as they add to their legacy at the Petersen Events Center.
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