Game Time: 9:00 PM
Opponent: Northwestern Wildcats
Head Coach: Chris Collins
Conference: Big 10
Last Game: L 42-43 vs. #13 Auburn
2021 Season: 15-16 (7-13 10th in Big 10)
Top Player: G Boo Buie (13.3 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 4.3 APG)
The Pittsburgh Panthers (4-3) face off against the Northwestern Wildcats (5-1) tonight, with the two teams matched up in the ACC/Big Ten challenge. The Panthers come into this amid a three-game winning streak and hope to continue that against a Northwestern squad that has looked solid in recent outings.
Jeff Capel’s squad has yet to put together a true complete performance since the season opener against UT-Martin, and they face a tough task tonight. Northwestern has been extremely solid defensively, ranking fourth nationally and first in the Big Ten in points allowed, with opponents mustering an average of 51.7 points per game.
The Wildcats coach, Chris Collins, (teammate of Capel at Duke from 1993-1996) has a bevy of talent and experience on his roster. The backcourt centers around Sr. G Boo Buie, an expert facilitator as well as the team’s leading scorer. Flanking him will be Sr. G Chase Audige as well as Jr. G Ty Berry, both averaging 10+ points per game.
Tonight’s battle is a rematch of a past ACC/Big 10 challenge game as Pitt was victorious over the Wildcats back in 2020, winning a nailbiter 71-70. This is the 21st matchup all-time between the two schools, each winning 10 contests.
KEYS TO VICTORY:
Pitt needs to limit turnovers to have a chance tonight. The team averages 14.7 TO per game, 2nd most in the ACC ahead of only Louisville. The Wildcats hold opponents to sub-35 % shooting from the field, meaning open shots are going to be tough to come by. If the Panthers are continuously coughing up the ball, there’s no way they can generate enough offense to win this contest.
Staying out of foul trouble has also proven tough for the Panthers in close games. Capel has repeatedly mentioned lapses in defensive communication in past press conferences that leads to fouls under the basket as someone inevitably ends up out of position and chasing their man. Clear and consistent communication on the defensive end, especially if things aren’t going their way off the bat, is a key for the Panthers.
Beyond that, the Panthers need an element of luck here. This is a matchup of experience and discipline on the side of the Wildcats opposing a squad of players who have spent much less time on the court together. The Wildcat’s strengths matchup with Pitt’s weaknesses consistently; but this is college basketball and much, much crazier things have happened before.
I’ve got the Wildcats in this contest with a score of 62-54.