Saturday, March 21, 2009


March 21, 2009

After a very shaky first round performance in a win over 16-seed ETSU on Friday, Pittsburgh will look for an improved effort in their second round game on Sunday. If they can't dig a little deeper, Oklahoma State is unlikely to let the Panthers off the hook like the Buccaneers on Friday.

Pitt saw the tables turned on them as ETSU outscored Jamie Dixon's squad 25-7 with second-chance points and saw Pitt make numerous careless mistake which led to 18 turnovers. The Panthers pulled away late for a 72-62 win, with sophomore beast DeJuan Blair accounting for 27 points and 16 rebounds.

Round two opponent Oklahoma State is a familiar foe with the two programs splitting regular season match-ups the last two years, with Pitt winning 85-68 last season in Pittsburgh. They also met in the NCAA Tournament in the 2004 Sweet 16 in a contest won by the Cowboys on their way to a Final Four.

This year's version of Oklahoma State is much smaller than in year's past. They will look to run and push the tempo with a fullcourt press and use the three-point shot as a big offensive weapon to compensate for their lack of inside game as they are unlikely to use anyone taller than 6'6 in the game.

Head coach Travis Ford definitely brings a Rick Pitino style of play to the game and will hope the Panthers are as careless against the OSU press as they were against ETSU.

"We've handled press well throughout the year," said Jamie Dixon. "And, again, we handled it better in the second half [against ETSU], much better in the second half of the last game."

Point guard Levance Fields is nursing a few injuries, including a sore groin which kept him out of practice for nearly two weeks, but he is back practicing now. He seemed a step slow at times on Friday, but Fields insists he will be ready at full speed against the Cowboys.

"Not at all," Fields responded to a media member question if he was still feeling the effects of the injured groin. "I told you yesterday I'm 100 percent, so
I'm 100 percent today (Saturday)."

If Pittsburgh can get the ball into Fields' hand more against the Oklahoma State pressure they should have better success in handling the basketball and limiting turnovers. They are also unlikely to see the kind of all out assault on the offensive boards from the Cowboys as ETSU put on them Friday. While Blair should have another big game, assuming he stays out of foul trouble against the perimeter-oriented OSU attack, the key for Pitt is finding Sam Young for some chances at the rim and his mid-range game to click. He hit four three's in the first round win, so that shot will need to be respected, and Young will use that to go at the rim.

Pitt is an 8 1/2-point favorite according to the college basketball odds. In a fashion similar to Memphis, who bounced back Saturday from a scare to drill Maryland, look for Pitt to do the same as they have too much muscle inside for the Cowboys and will lead to too many easy baskets. Once they get some easy shots to go down, the rest of their game will open up.

NBE Blogger Prediction:

Pittsburgh 83
Oklahoma State 72



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