PITTSBURGH PANTHERS (20-5)
at MARQUETTE GOLDEN EAGLES (17-6)
BMO Harris Bradley Center - Milwaukee, WI
Tip-off: Saturday, 1:00 p.m. ET
Line: Pittsburgh -2, Total: 123.5
Two of the teams in the hunt for a Big East regular-season title square off Saturday afternoon when No. 16 Pittsburgh visits No. 18 Marquette.
The Golden Eagles are 8-3 in conference play, tying them with Syracuse and Georgetown for the top spot. The Panthers are just a half-game behind the trio at 8-4, winning seven of their past eight games (5-3 ATS). Marquette is just 1-3 ATS this month, but is a perfect 13-0 SU at home this season, winning these games by 12.0 PPG. When these two schools met last month in Pittsburgh, the Eagles were tabbed as a 10.5-point underdog and pulled off a 74-67 overtime upset. They also beat the Panthers 62-57 at home last season, which ended a four-game win series win streak for Pittsburgh.
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Pittsburgh doesn't score a ton at 71.0 PPG, but the school is very unselfish, as its 17.2 APG ranks sixth in the country. That helps lead to a stellar 48.3% FG clip, good for 14th-best in the nation. Ten different Panthers average at least 11.5 MPG this season, with nobody seeing even 28 minutes per game. Senior PG Tray Woodall (10.9 PPG, 5.4 APG) has made a career-best 47% of his shots, including 38% from downtown. He's scored in double-figures in four straight games, averaging 13.0 PPG during this stretch. Woodall played just four minutes in last month's home loss to Marquette after leaving the court following a loose-ball collision. Junior PF Talib Zanna (10.6 PPG, 6.0 RPG) hasn't been shooting well in his past five games (33%, 12-for-36 FG), but has pulled down 9.3 RPG over his past four contests. Zanna had a horrible night against Marquette on Jan. 12, scoring just three points on 1-of-9 shooting. SF Lamar Patterson (10.1 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 3.2 APG) was nearly perfect in last month's loss to the Eagles, scoring 22 points on 7-of-9 FG (6-of-7 threes). But he's been slumping over the past four games with a mere 9.5 PPG on 40% FG. Freshman C Steven Adams (7.2 PPG, 6.5 RPG) shoots 59% from the floor, but just 40% from the free-throw line. Adams was a beast in the paint versus Marquette last month though with six rebounds and four blocked shots. Freshman SG James Robinson (6.1 PPG, 3.6 APG) also played well in that game with 12 points and four assists before fouling out.
Marquette's offense is slightly better than average with 69.4 PPG (128th in nation), but it really struggles to make three-point shots at 29.5% threes. This is mostly an issue of the starting backcourt forcing shots, as SG Vander Blue (14.6 PPG, 3.2 RPG) hits just 29% of his threes, while PG Junior Cadougan (8.8 PPG, 4.3 APG) shoots 22% (9-of-41) from downtown. Blue made only 1-of-4 threes against Pittsburgh last month, but still scored a team-high 22 points with 6-of-12 FG and 9-of-10 free throws. PF Davante Gardner is the team's second-leading scorer at 11.6 PPG, making 57% of his high-percentage shots. He also leads the team in rebounding (5.0 RPG) and has made an incredible 86% of his free throws (95-for-111) despite weighing nearly 300 pounds. Gardner was a perfect 6-of-6 FG in the upset win at Pittsburgh last month, finishing with 13 points and eight rebounds. Junior SF Jamil Wilson (8.4 PPG, 4.4 RPG) scored 11 points in that surprising victory before fouling out. Wilson has also scored in double-figures in three straight games, netting 13 points on 3-of-4 FG, 2-of-2 threes and 5-of-5 FT in Monday's loss at Georgetown.