GAME NOTES: The quarterfinals of the College Basketball Invitational are set to begin this evening when the Pittsburgh Panthers play host to the Princeton Tigers at Petersen Events Center. The winner advances to the semifinals on Wednesday.
Princeton won its first-round game over Evansville, 95-86, and has now won five games in a row and nine of its last 10 to improve its overall record to 20-11. The recent win also extended the Tigers all-time record in the CBI to 3-1.
Pittsburgh is in the postseason for the 12th straight year, although this is the first since 2000 that it hasn't appeared in the NCAA Tournament. The Panthers defeated Wofford in the first round of this event, 81-63, moving their overall record to 18-16 -- a down year by the lofty standards they have set over the past decade.
This bout marks the fourth meeting all-time between these two teams, with Pitt clinging to a 2-1 advantage. The last encounter was way back in 1962.
Princeton went into Evansville and had its most productive offensive game of the season. Even though it allowed the Purple Aces to shoot a lofty 59.6 percent from the floor, Princeton was able to keep pace by draining an incredible 60 percent of its total shots, including 10-of-22 from beyond the arc. Douglas Davis had a near-perfect night en route to his career-high 31 points, going 9-of-11 from the field, which included a 5-of-6 showing from three-point range, and 8-of-8 at the foul line. The Tigers were solid at both ends of the floor this season, ranking second in the Ivy League in both scoring offense (67.1 ppg) and scoring defense (61.8 ppg). They are also effective from the three-point line (.376) and they dish out more assists than any team in the league (14.5 apg). Ian Hummer was one of the league's most productive players, leading the team in scoring (16.2 ppg), rebounding (7.3 rpg), steals (1.4 spg) and blocks (1.2 bpg), while Davis chips in with 13.5 ppg.
Pittsburgh made easy work of Wofford in the opening round by holding the Terriers to a lowly 37.3 percent field goal shooting while it made 55 percent of its total shots, including an incredible 14-of-25 from three-point range. The Panthers used an early 16-0 run to take control, and they had five players score in double figures, paced by J.J. Moore and Tray Woodall with 16 points apiece. Leading the Pitt scoring attack this season is Ashton Gibbs, who nets 15.4 ppg, though he had his difficulties shooting the ball, connecting on just 38.8 percent of his field goal attempts. Woodall has been one of the most effective point guards in the Big East, tallying 11.3 ppg and 6.0 apg, while Nasir Robinson adds 10.8 ppg and 6.7 rpg to the mix. Although the Panthers possess both an average offense (69.1 ppg) and defense (66.1 ppg), they are the league's strongest team on the glass, laying claim to a rebounding margin of +6.7.
Princeton has been one of the hottest teams in the country over the past month, and it could use its balanced attack to take down the Panthers. However, the home court advantage can't be minimized, and that will prove to be the x-factor in Pitt advancing to the semifinals.