GAME NOTES: Coming off a hard-earned win over Notre Dame, the Pittsburgh Panthers will play their final home game of the season on Monday night when the NC State Wolfpack come to Petersen Events Center for an ACC bout.
Pittsburgh needed overtime to finish off Notre Dame on the road this past Saturday. The Panthers' 85-81 victory was their second straight and moved them to 22-7 overall and 10-6 in league play. All in all, it has been a strong first campaign for Pitt in the ACC, with the regular season ending at Clemson this Saturday.
NC State has hit a rough patch at the worst possible time as it has dropped four of its last five games down the home stretch. The Wolfpack don't have an overly impressive resume' at 17-12 overall and 7-9 in league play, so their NCAA Tournament hopes were all but finished. They will end on the road this Sunday against Boston College.
Led by 22 points from Lamar Patterson, Pittsburgh easily handled NC State, 74-62, in Raleigh on Jan. 4. However, the Panthers still have work to do in the all-time series, which they trail, 9-2.
T.J. Warren was at it again, scoring 20 points, but it didn't matter as NC State fell to Miami, 85-70, on Saturday. The Wolfpack allowed the Hurricanes to shoot 58.7 percent from the floor, while being outscored, 26-16, from the free-throw line and outrebounded, 32-24.
Warren (23.6 ppg, 7 rpg) is really all NC State has going at the moment. The 6-foot-8 forward is the best scorer in the ACC, having netted at least 20 points in all but two of the league bouts he has appeared in, including four 30-point efforts. Unfortunately, the rest of the roster does not provide much offensively, with Ralston Turner (10.3 ppg) the only other player averaging in double figures. Anthony Barber (9 ppg, 3.5 apg) is a solid passer, but his poor shooting (.385 FG percentage) has mad more of an impact. In all, the Wolfpack net just 70.9 ppg, despite shooting a solid 45.6 percent from the floor.
Pittsburgh led for most of the second half, but a 3-pointer by Notre Dame's V.J. Beachem with nine seconds remaining forced overtime. Tied at 72-72 with 1:30 to play in the extra session, a pair of free throws from James Robinson and a dunk off a steal by Patterson, gave the Panthers enough breathing room to earn the victory.
The Panthers were uncharacteristically sloppy on defense against Notre Dame, which shot 54.8 percent from the floor. Jamie Dixon's squad usually locks up teams on defense, letting up only 61.6 ppg on 40.9 percent shooting for the season. Patterson (17.2 ppg, 4.5 apg) runs the show on offense, leading the team in scoring and assists. Patterson's talent in sharing the ball spreads to the entire team, as the Panthers are ranked 15th nationally in assist-to- turnover ratio (+1.47). Zanna (12.6 ppg, 8.2 rpg) and Cameron Wright (11 ppg) stand in as the secondary scoring options behind Patterson.
With their tenacious defensive play matched with the limited mistakes they make on offense, the Panthers should have not problem collecting a win against a one-dimensional NC State team.
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