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22 March 2009

Pitt readies for Oklahoma State

Today at roughtly 2:50 pm Pitt will take on the Oklahoma State Cowboys in a NCAA Tournament second round game at University of Dayton Arena in Dayton, Ohio.

Below is a listing of the individual matchup breakdowns and an overall overview from Pantherlair.com.

Keiton Page vs. Levance Fields

Fields is the player that Pitt needs most right now. It has been proven all year that anytime Fields scores in double-digits, shoots at least 40 percent from the field, or even makes just a couple three-pointers, it makes a huge difference. Even if he doesn't put up the points, he's almost always good for a high-assist/low-turnover output. On Friday, none of those things came to fruition, as Pitt had to survive against East Tennessee State. Page is a true freshman that has worked his way into the starting lineup this year. Since making his first start against Iowa State on February 14, following a 25-point loss to Texas, Oklahoma State is 9-2. He doesn't have great assist numbers, doesn't put up a lot of points, but is an accurate three-point shooter, and has led his team to nine wins. It's a tall task for the freshman to defend as decorated a player as Fields, but more than anything, for Pitt to win, they need Fields to snap out of it.

Edge: Pitt

Byron Eaton vs. Jermaine Dixon

Dixon is also in a slump. He may have a quickness advantage on Eaton, but Eaton is a strong player. Dixon hasn't been the same for the last three games. He has a total of 11 points in the last three games, sat out a considerable amount of time due to foul trouble against East Tennessee State, and fouled out against UConn. Eaton is prone to foul trouble, which can be good or bad: he'll either draw people into getting fouls, or he himself gets called. It all depends on how the game is called. Eaton is not afraid to drive to the net, and when he's in the paint, he has the strong presence of a low-post player. His only drawback is that he's a hit-or-miss kind of shooter. He was an impressive 7-of-10 in a win over Tennessee, but was 0-for-7 in the Big 12 tournament loss to Missouri. The key for Dixon will probably be to stay with him on his drives. Both players picked up four fouls in their first-round games, and it might be a battle to see who can keep it under four.

Edge: Even

Terrel Harris vs. Sam Young

After Levance Fields, the player Pitt needs most is Sam Young. To his credit, Young's 11 second-half points helped separate the Panthers, but they certainly needed more than three points in the first half from him. Perhaps what hurts the most is the fact that Young was 0-for-4 from two-point range. Young is lethal for any opponent, but he's lethal to Pitt when he tries to create too much. While Young has the athletic advantage over mostly anyone he goes up against, he's going up against someone just as athletic in Terrel Harris. The only real differences between the two are that Harris is not as much of a threat as Young is in the three-point department and is in no way close to the rebounder that Young is. Harris is the most consistent overall shooter on Oklahoma State's team, and is a near perfect free-throw shooter. The key for Young: stay with Harris on his drives and take good shots, and he might be able to take over this game.

Edge: Pitt

James Anderson vs. Tyrell Biggs

Biggs is going to have to stand his ground; whether he scores or not is not the issue. Anderson is a threat from many areas. He can shoot the three-pointer, but he is also a very good slasher, something that creates a lot of mismatches for a lot of power forwards. Both players can be physical inside, but it's likely that Anderson will try to drive from the wing as he did against Tennessee. Biggs' defense will be tested, while anything he can come up with on offense will be a bonus for Pitt.

Edge: OSU

Marshall Moses vs. DeJuan Blair

Blair and Moses match up in a battle of the two leading scorers from their respective first-round games. Blair has the size advantage, and has proven to be a monster against everyone all year. A big reason for Blair being so successful is not his size as much as it is how quick and athletic he is for someone his size. Moses now creates that challenge for Blair. The Oklahoma State frontcourt is going to be outmanned by Biggs and Blair, but they've made it to the second round of the NCAA Tournament, so they are obviously doing something right, and part of that is using their quickness and athleticism. Moses paced his team with 11 rebounds, giving the Cowboys a rebounding edge on Friday. Blair did a similar thing for Pitt. The only drawback for both players is that they are both prone to getting in foul trouble, and both teams are not the same without them.

Edge: Pitt

Depth: OSU Bench vs. Pitt Bench

If there was one thing besides DeJuan Blair that went well for Pitt on Friday, it was the bench play. Freshman Ashton Gibbs showed no signs of being nervous in his first NCAA Tournament game, getting 10 points for the Panthers, which literally made the difference in the game. Brad Wanamaker wasn't able to get many shots off, but filling in for Jermaine Dixon after Dixon got his third foul, he helped Pitt out more than the scoreboard showed. Gilbert Brown's eight points was also a nice surprise. All three need a similar performance or better against Oklahoma State, simply because the Cowboy bench is represented by two players with minimal contributions. Obi Muonelo and Anthony Brown are the key bench players for the Cowboys. Muonelo is a hot-and-cold three-point shooter. In the Big 12 Tournament, Muonelo shot just 3-of-11 from three-point range in a loss to Missouri, knocking the Cowboys out. He connected on 2-of-4 three-pointers against Tennessee, not a huge difference, but in a game decided by two points, made somewhat of a difference. Brown's minutes are sporadic. If someone else gets in foul trouble, he's usually in to play some minutes. The Brooklyn native shouldn't affect the Panthers on the boards one way or the other.

Edge: Pitt

Overall: OSU vs. Pitt

Pitt 75

OSU 73

Pitt and Oklahoma State played polar opposites in their first round games. Pitt shot a decent 43-percent from the field, but turned the ball over 18 times. Oklahoma State shot over 55-percent against Tennessee, and won on a buzzer-beater. If both teams play to those same standards on Sunday, the outcome could be much different. The keys for Pitt are simple: hold Oklahoma State to a shooting percentage of 30 percent, cut down on the turnovers, and play more disciplined. For as disciplined a program as this has been over the last eight seasons, it's hard to believe when they have their best shot at a Final Four, they are not playing as disciplined. If Byron Eaton (7-of-10 against Tennessee) and Marshall Moses (8-of-10 against Tennessee) shoot as well against Pitt, and the Panthers don't get things corrected, Oklahoma State could pull the upset. The Panthers have a size advantage in the paint, while the Cowboys have a size advantage in the backcourt. This game could also come down to who exploits the other first. One area where both teams are similar, is how they are both prone to getting in foul trouble. Three Oklahoma State players picked up four fouls in Friday, yet still held on. Another player picked up three, and Oklahoma State head coach Travis Ford was called for a technical.

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