FACTS & STATS: Site: Madison Square Garden (18,200) -- New York, New York. Television: ESPN. Home Record: Delaware 0-0, Pitt 4-0. Away Record: Delaware 1-2, Pitt 0-1. Neutral Record: Delaware 1-0, Pitt 0-0. Conference Record: Delaware 0-0, Pitt 0-0. Series Record: First-ever meeting.
GAME NOTES: The Delaware Blue Hens and Pittsburgh Panthers will meet in the consolation game of the NIT Season Tip-Off on Friday afternoon at Madison Square Garden.
Delaware's run through the NIT field was halted on Wednesday by the Kansas State Wildcats in a a spirited 66-63 game. The Blue Hens, who opened the 2012-13 season with a loss at La Salle (73-66), best both Penn (84-69) and Virginia (59-53) to earn the trip to the Big Apple.
Pittsburgh drew the short straw in terms of semifinal matchups, as they were pitted against fourth-ranked Michigan. The Panthers dropped a 67-62 decision to the Wolverines, the team's first loss of the season. Pittsburgh's season began with a lopsided win over Mount St. Mary's (80-48), followed by tournament victories over Fordham (86-51) and Lehigh (78-53), prior to last weekend's victory at home over Oakland (72-62).
UD is 0-9 all-time against Big East opponents, although this marks the first time these two teams will be meeting on the hardwood.
Devon Saddler erupted for a career-high tying 32 points, on 12-of-22 shooting, but it wasn't enough, as the Blue Hens couldn't get past Kansas State in semifinal action on Wednesday. Saddler was responsible for just over half of Delaware's total offensive output in the game. Jamelle Hagins also had a strong performance in the setback, recording a double-double with 12 points and 15 rebounds.
Delaware isn't going to overwhelm opponents with gaudy offensive numbers. The team is averaging a modest 68.0 ppg, doing so on .445 shooting. Still, Saddler has the ability to light up a scoreboard. Despite shooting just under 40 percent from the field overall, the veteran guard leads the team in scoring at a hefty 20.0 ppg. Fellow guard Jarvis Threatt adds another perimeter scorer at 12.0 ppg, while Hagins has handled the work inside for the most part. He has recorded three double-doubles in the first four games and is averaging 10.0 points and 13.0 rebounds per outing.
Pittsburgh shot 51.9 percent from the floor in the first half and took a four- point lead into the break against Michigan, but could not sustain its success from the floor, converting just 38.5 percent the rest of the way in a five- point loss. Lamar Patterson was the only Panther to finish in double figures, going 5-of-9 from the field to tally 14 points. James Robinson and Cameron Wright provided limited help with eight points each. Pitt was outscored 18-6 at the free-throw line and was outrebounded by the Wolverines, 37-26.
Despite the loss, Pittsburgh has really been productive at both ends of the court overall, shooting .512 from the floor and averaging 75.6 ppg, while limiting foes to just 56.2 ppg. The team has a trio of double-figure scorers that are the focal point of the offense, led by Talib Zanna's 12.6 ppg. Tray Woodall and J.J. Moore aren't far behind at 12.2 and 12.0 ppg, respectively.
Saddler has been a scoring machine early on and while he will probably still get his points in this one, the Panthers' overall depth and solid defensive play should win out in the end.