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(6) Syracuse (18-2) at Pittsburgh (17-5)



Saturday, February 2, 12 p.m. (et)

The Sports Network

By Frank Haynes, Senior College Basketball Editor

FACTS & STATS: Site: Petersen Events Center (12,508) -- Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Television: ESPN. Home Record: SU 13-0, Pitt 12-2. Away Record: SU 4-1, Pitt 3-2. Neutral Record: SU 1-1, Pitt 2-1. Conference Record: SU 6-1, Pitt 5-4. Series Record: Syracuse leads, 62-38.

GAME NOTES: A pivotal Big East Conference clash takes place in the Steel City on Saturday, as the sixth-ranked Syracuse Orange tangle with the Pittsburgh Panthers.

Syracuse is having another banner year, the team sporting an 18-2 overall record and a 6-1 mark in conference play. The team has been idle since suffering its first Big East loss last Saturday in overtime at Villanova (75-71), and it was also the first setback for the Orange in five true road games. Following this bout, SU will return home for a pair beginning with a date against Notre Dame on Monday night.

Pittsburgh is enjoying a solid year of its own, the team logging a 17-5 overall record, although its league ledger leaves something to be desired at just 5-4. A 64-61 loss at No. 12 Louisville this past Monday put an end to a four-game win streak, and the team will be seeking its 13th home win in 15 opportunities today. The Panthers are 1-3 against ranked opponents this season, but they are an amazing 12-1 versus top-10 foes at the Petersen Events Center over the years.

Syracuse owns a 62-38 lead in the all-time series with Pittsburgh, but the Panthers have won five of the last six meetings in their hometown.

This is the only scheduled encounter between the long-time rivals this season, but the series will continue next year when both teams move to the ACC.

Brandon Triche scored 23 points and Michael Carter-Williams added 17 more, but those efforts weren't enough to help Syracuse survive on the road last weekend against Villanova, as the Orange fell by five points in overtime. Two others scored in double figures for a SU team that shot just 33.3 percent from the field but outscored the Wildcats at the foul line, 24-18. The Orange were guilty of only seven turnovers in the game, but missed six of its eight shots in the extra session. Triche continues to pace the club in scoring with his 14.9 ppg, while Carter-Williams is as well-rounded a performer as there in the Big East as he averages 12.6 points and a whopping 8.9 assists per outing. Fair nets 13.4 ppg and is the team's leading rebounder with 7.2 rpg. Collectively, the Orange are putting up 77.1 ppg while permitting just 59.1 ppg. Foes find it difficult to convert from the floor (.359), with their 3- point efforts falling well short of what anyone would consider respectable (.285). The Orange also do a sensational job goading the opposition into miscues, coming up with more than 17 turnovers per tilt.

Tray Woodall drained four 3-pointers on his way to a team-high 14 points, but the Panthers couldn't muster much more in terms of offensive production in their recent visit to Louisville. Lamar Patterson was the only other Panther to reach double figures in the three-point setback, netting 10 points, and the team as a whole made good on 43.9 percent of its total shots, which included an 8-of-18 showing from beyond the arc. A 3-of-12 effort from the foul line was horrific, and the Panthers were guilty of 15 turnovers. Pitt is averaging 72.4 ppg this season, but its top three scorers average between 10.2 and 11.2 ppg. Leading scorer Talib Zanna is a 54.1 percent shooter who also grabs 5.6 rpg, while Woodall hands out 5.7 apg and nets 10.7 ppg. Patterson (10.2 ppg, 3.9 rpg) and even Steven Adams (6.8 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 43 blocked shots) lend support for a squad that knocks down 48.9 percent of its field goal attempts, while holding the opposition to just 39.6 percent. Foes score a scant 54.9 ppg against the Panthers, who also hold significant margins in both rebounding (+8.0) and turnovers (+3.8).

This should be a highly-competitive affair between two teams that on paper appear pretty similar. The home court advantage, particularly in big games, can not be minimized, so let's give the Panthers the nod.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Pittsburgh 68, Syracuse 66

02/02 10:31:37 ET