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Pitt Basketball: Panthers Hoping To Rebound Against Rutgers

We haven't said Pitt needed to rebound too much this season, but this is one of those cases. After a disappointing home loss to Notre Dame on Monday, Pitt tries to get back on track playing on the road against Rutgers on Saturday.

After losing its best player, Mike Rosario, who transferred to Florida, and center Hamady Ndiaye to graduation, I really didn't expect Rutgers to be very good this year. I thought first-year coach (and former Pitt assistant) Mike Rice would have his hands full, but really, at 12-8 and 3-5 in the Big East, they're doing a pretty good job.

Pitt guard Brad Wanamaker isn't all that surprised and expects Rutgers to come ready to play:

Rice, a Pittsburgh native, has done well with an inexperienced Rutgers roster this year. Despite having three underclassmen in the starting lineup and having just nine scholarship players total, the Scarlet Knights (12-8, 3-5 Big East) hold opponents to 64 points per game, the fifth-best defense in the conference.

"He’s a very demanding person," Wanamaker said. "He works hard at what he does. He gets the most out of his players."

He added that under Rice, the Scarlet Knights will "get after it" for 40 minutes because Rice’s enthusiasm for the game is contagious.

Rutgers doesn't have what you might call a star player as they're led by Jonathan Mitchell, who averages 13 points and six rebounds per game. And with the team's tallest player being only 6'8", Rutgers will need to make up for its lack of size:

The Panthers routinely go four-deep among their big men — led by McGhee — and lay claim as the only Big East team in the top three in both scoring offense and defense.

"We just have to attack the same way we've been attacking all year," said senior guard Mike Coburn, who had as many points as turnovers Wednesday against Cincinnati. "We don't change anything really, just slight things. Obviously to counteract [Pitt's] size, we'll do other things. But we take it as the same game, the same approach."

For Pitt obviously, it's all about getting back on track:

"We need to go back to what we do," Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said, "and do a little better at sustaining it."

Unlike Notre Dame, Rutgers hasn't presented many challenges to Pitt lately:
Pitt has defeated Rutgers in 11 of the last 13 meetings. In addition, the Panthers have registered five consecutive wins vs. Rutgers in Piscataway dating back to the 2002-03 season.

Not only that, but Rutgers hasn't had much success against top-ranked teams, never defeating a top five ranked team.

The RAC has been known as providing a tough road atmosphere at times for visitors, but I don't see any way Pitt drops this game, even on the road.