3:00 PM ET, January 21, 2007
Petersen Events Center, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Pittsburgh is off to its best conference start in four years thanks to the emergence of a strong perimeter game to go with Aaron Gray's play in the paint.The sixth-ranked Panthers look to open conference play with six straight wins for the first time since joining the Big East 25 years ago when they host No. 24 Marquette on Sunday.Gray had 22 points and a season-high 19 rebounds to lead Pitt (17-2, 5-0) to a 63-54 victory over Connecticut on Tuesday. The Panthers, who have won seven straight overall, are 5-0 in league play for the first time since 2002-03.Gray, who had a career-high 20 boards in Pitt's 77-71 victory over the Golden Eagles (16-4, 3-2) last season, missed two days of practice this week with an injured right wrist but is expected to play Sunday."It's nothing worse than what it was when he played (against UConn)," Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said. "You have to think that things will be fine. It's just discomfort. I really don't know what it is. It doesn't hurt any more than it did when he played with it."While opponents are forced to focus on the 7-foot Gray, who was named the Big East preseason player of the year by the conference's coaches, the Panthers are proving to be a difficult team to defend with their solid outside game. Pitt made 6-of-11 shots from 3-point range on Tuesday and is shooting 46.3 percent from beyond the arc in conference games."We have tremendous depth and a lot of guys who can score, but I think it's our perimeter shooting that really sets this team apart," Dixon said.Pitt leads the Big East in 3-point shooting at 40.2 percent after finishing eighth last season at 35.2 percent.Ronald Ramon went 4-for-4 from 3-point range while scoring a season-high 17 points on Tuesday and is shooting 9-of-13 from beyond the arc in his last four games.The Panthers have struggled against ranked opponents, however, losing consecutive games to No. 2 Wisconsin and No. 12 Oklahoma State in their only matchups with Top 25 teams this season.Pitt has had no problems beating teams at the Petersen Events Center, though, going 12-0 there this season. The Panthers have won 28 of 29 home games since the start of last season and seven of eight contests against ranked opponents since the venue opened in 2002-03.Marquette is 3-1 against Top 25 teams this season, and used back-to-back victories over ranked squads last week to climb back into the poll.The Golden Eagles dropped out of the Top 25 after losing their first two conference games, but have since won three straight, including a 74-65 victory over Louisville on Monday.Marquette allowed an average of 72.0 points on 46.1 percent shooting in its two conference losses, but is giving up 65.7 points on 37.3 percent shooting during its win streak."The most important thing is we're starting to get better, we're starting to learn how to play." coach Tom Crean said. "Our team is building confidence."Dominic James, averaging a team-high 16.5 points, scored 18 to lead four Golden Eagles in double figures on Monday. James had 32 points and 11 rebounds in two games against Pitt last season as a freshman.Marquette, which joined the conference last season, has never won four straight Big East games.
|Avg Points Allowed||65.0||62.4|