Pittsburgh, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - Two of the Atlantic Coast Conference's best square off at the Petersen Events Center on Sunday, as the 18th-ranked Pittsburgh Panthers play host to the Virginia Cavaliers.
Since losing its first ACC game of the season to Duke on Jan. 13, Virginia has ripped off four straight victories, most recently downing Notre Dame on the road last Tuesday, 68-53. The Cavaliers are now 16-5 this season, and at 7-1 in conference play, they sit behind only unbeaten Syracuse in the standings.
Pittsburgh failed its latest test at home to Duke last Monday, falling by a convincing 80-65 margin, dropping to 0-3 against ranked opponents this season. The struggles against elite competition aside, the Panthers are still an outstanding 18-3 overall this season, which includes a 6-2 mark in the ACC and a 12-1 ledger on their home floor.
In regards to the all-time series, Virginia has a 7-3 advantage over Pitt, although the new conference rivals haven't played since 1990.
The Cavaliers never trailed in their latest bout, as they opened up a 10-point halftime lead over Notre Dame and cruised to the strong road victory from there. They shot a lofty 53.8 percent from the field and also played great defense, scoring 29 points off of 20 forced turnovers. Malcolm Brogdon filled the stat sheet with 16 points, seven rebounds, six assists and five steals, while Mike Tobey netted 14 points on 7-of-10 from the field.
Virginia has made a name for itself this season behind its elite defense, as it yields just 56.0 ppg on 38 percent field goal shooting, with the former ranking first in the nation. Its scoring offense is hardly threatening (67.0 ppg), but it's been more than enough, especially considering its positive margins in the rebounding (+6.6) and turnover (+1.7) battles. Brogdon pours in 11.6 ppg on 90.6 percent from the free-throw line while adding 5.3 rpg and 1.6 spg. Joe Harris (11.5 ppg) has drained 36 3-pointers at a 42.9 percent clip, while Justin Anderson adds 9.6 ppg.
The Panthers could not keep pace with the Blue Devils in their most recent contest, as they were outshot from the field, 48.3 percent to 41.2 percent, while also losing both the rebounding (37-32) and turnover (10-7) battles in the 15-point setback. Lamar Patterson poured in 14 points but also turned the ball over five times. Talib Zanna registered 11 points and 11 rebounds, while James Robinson had 10 points and five assists.
On the season, Pitt usually faces little issue piecing together a strong offensive attack, as it shoots an outstanding 48.5 percent from the field for 75.8 ppg. The team has been stout defensively as well, yielding a mere 61.1 ppg on 40.6 percent shooting, and its rebounding (+8.5) and turnover (+2.0) margins are both big reasons for the well-rounded attack. Patterson is the catalyst, contributing all over the floor with 17.7 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 4.5 apg and 1.6 spg. Zanna mans the paint with 13.5 ppg, 8.0 rpg and 1.0 bpg, while Cameron Wright (10.8 ppg) rounds out the double-digit scorers.