Fordham (0-1) at Pittsburgh (1-0)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Monday, November 12, 6 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Petersen Events Center (12,508) -- Pittsburgh, PEnnsylvania. Television: ESPN3.com. Home Record: Fordham 0-0, Pitt 1-0. Away Record: Fordham 0-1, Pitt 0-0. Neutral Record: Fordham 0-0, Pitt 0-0. Conference Record: Fordham 0-0, Pitt 0-0. Series Record: Pitt leads 13-8.
GAMES NOTES: As part of the NIT Season Tip-Off the Fordham Rams will travel to the Petersen Events Center to tangle with the Pittsburgh Panthers on Monday.
The first game of the season for Fordham ended poorly with the Rams dropping an 86-76 decision on the road to Texas State. In the loss the Rams wasted a double-double from Chris Gaston, the 53rd of his career. Fordham has largely been a disappointing squad over the last 20 seasons with the team having just one season with a winning record during that time. The Rams have accumulated only 22 wins in the last four seasons although last year's 10 wins was the most during that stretch.
It was a much more successful beginning to the season for Pittsburgh in its season opener against Mount Saint Mary's. The Panthers were stellar on both ends of the court in posting an 80-48 victory at the Petersen Events Center. Pittsburgh finished with a 22-17 record last season but had a 10-season streak of NCAA Tournament appearances put to an end, something Jamie Dixon and company will be trying to rectify this season.
Although there are 22 total meetings between these squads there has not been a matchup since 1977. Pittsburgh came out on top in that game (80-76) to push the Panthers' edge in the all-time series to 13-8.
In what was a relatively even game in terms of offensive success for Fordham against Texas State with both teams shooting over 40 percent from the floor, the difference was from the free-throw line. The Rams were victim to a 25-14 discrepancy in points from the charity stripe. Fordham also hurt itself with 23 turnovers.
Gaston filled up the stat sheet in the loss but it wasn't all good news. He finished with 19 points and 14 rebounds but he was also guilty of a game- high seven turnovers. Recording double-doubles has been a hallmark of Gaston's career after he led the team with 17.1 points and 9.9 rebounds per game last season. He can also contribute on defense with his ability to protect the rim (1.6 bpg). Branden Frazier (11.7 ppg, 4.1 apg) is a rock at point guard for the Rams. Frazier took on more of a scoring load in the game against Texas State (18 points) while his distribution consisted of just one assist. Overall the Rams did not set up each other well with only seven assists in the game, while Texas State had 17. The Rams' 43.9 field goal percentage in the game was a welcome sign however. Fordham finished better than just a handful of teams nationally in the category last season (.383) and could really use some improved efficiency on offense. Playing on the road, as the game against Texas State already illustrated, is not something Fordham has excelled in. Last season the Rams won just a single game on the road in 14 chances.
Scoring at will is often a recipe for success and that proved to be no different for Pittsburgh against Mount Saint Mary's. The Panthers got everything they wanted on offense and finished with a school record 70.8 field goal percentage in the game.
Effective offensive play is nothing new for Pittsburgh. Last season the Panthers were third in the Big East in field goal percentage (.453) but just sixth in scoring (69 ppg). A nice surprise for Dixon and the rest of the Panthers' coaching staff was the play of Talib Zanna. Used primarily off the bench last season, the junior forward fit right into the starting lineup scoring a career-high 20 points. Zanna heated up towards the end of last season scoring in double figures in five of the final six games. If his play in the opener is any indication he has carried that success over into this season. Fresh off an injury that forced him to miss 11 games, a healthy and effective Trey Woodall (11.7 ppg, 6.1 apg) was another nice sight. Woodall finished with 14 points and seven assists in the contest and knocked down the Panthers' lone three-point field goal. Central Michigan-transfer Trey Zeigler played 20 minutes off the bench and scored 11 points on 5-of-6 shooting.
Zanna will get a real challenge in his quest to continue playing at such a high level against Gaston. While those two fight it out down low, Woodall should have his way in the backcourt against Frazier. That will prove to be the difference.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Pittsburgh 76, Fordham 63
11/12 10:44:24 ET