Maryland-Eastern Shore (2-7) at (8) Pittsburgh (10-1)
Saturday, December 18th, 7:00 p.m. (et)
The Sports Network
By Pat Taggart, Associate College Basketball Editor
FACTS & STATS: Site: Petersen Events Center (12,500) -- Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Television: FSN-PIT, ESPN Regional. Home Record: UMES 1-2, Pitt 7-0. Away Record: UMES 1-5, Pitt 0-0. Neutral Record: UMES 0-0, Pitt 3-1. Conference Record: UMES 0-1, Pitt 0-0. Series Record: Pittsburgh leads, 1-0.
GAME NOTES: In what certainly appears to be a lopsided pairing, the eight- ranked Pittsburgh Panthers will host the Maryland-Eastern Shore Hawks tonight in non-conference action.
Maryland-Eastern Shore is a member of the MEAC and began league play with a loss earlier this month. The team has suffered setbacks in three consecutive outings to fall to 2-7 overall, including 1-5 in true road games. They have been idle since last Saturday when they dropped a 90-56 decision to Evansville, and that beatdown was preceded by a 42-point loss to Old Dominion.
As for Pittsburgh, it opened the season with 10 consecutive victories and carried plenty of confidence into last Saturday's meeting with Tennessee. Unfortunately, that affair resulted in an 83-76 defeat, and it will be interesting to see how coach Jamie Dixon and his team respond this evening. They are 7-0 at home thus far, and all but one of the home wins have come by double figures.
Pittsburgh beat Maryland-Eastern Shore in the only previous meeting between the two teams.
While UMES is scoring a modest 66.3 ppg on 39.7 percent shooting from the field, the team is allowing 81.6 ppg on 48.6 percent shooting. The Hawks have been outrebounded by over five boards per contest and lack the type of player capable of taking a game over at the offensive end of the court. Hillary Haley is tops on the roster with 12.9 ppg, while Dishawn Bradshaw checks in with 12.3 ppg. In the 34-point loss to Evansville last weekend, the Hawks turned the ball over 17 times and shot 36.7 percent from the field, including a mere 25 percent from three-point range. At the defensive end, they permitted the Purple Aces to shoot 59.2 percent. A 26-8 deficit in points from the foul line and a 38-267 rebounding disadvantage also contributed to the lopsided outcome. Tyler Hines and Kevin White both had 11 points, while Haley was held scoreless. Tim Burns contributed 10 points off the bench.
Ashton Gibbs is the leading scorer for Pittsburgh this season, as he is netting 17.2 ppg on the strength of his 45.6 percent shooting from three-point range. Gibbs is also handing out 3.0 apg, while Brad Wanamaker, who is tops in assists with 6.0 apg, places second in scoring with 13.5 ppg. Those two players are the only double-digit scorers on the roster, but coach Dixon does have other solid contributors in the fold. The Panthers are generating 81.0 ppg while limiting opponents to 62.2 ppg on 41 percent field goal efficiency. Rebounding has been an area of strength for Pitt, which is pulling down 15.2 rpg more than the opposition. In the seven-point loss to Tennessee last time out, Wanamaker tallied 21 points and nine assists to go along with five rebounds and five steals, proof of his tremendous versatility. Gibbs had 15 points for the Panthers, but he shot just 4-of-13 from the field. Pitt committed 15 turnovers in that tilt and were actually outrebounded by the Vols. Also, 17 missed free throws clearly hurt the cause.
There is no doubt that Pitt is eager to get back on the floor after tasting defeat for the first time. The Panthers will get off to a strong start and never look back.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Pittsburgh 82, Maryland-Eastern Shore 55
12/18 10:35:14 ET