St. Peter's (0-2) at Pittsburgh (0-0)
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The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, November 19th, 7:30 p.m. (et).
FACTS & STATS: Site: Petersen Events Center (12,500) -- Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Television: None. Home Record: St. Peter's 0-0, Pittsburgh 0-0. Away Record: St. Peter's 0-1, Pittsburgh 0-0. Neutral Record: St. Peter's 0-1, Pittsburgh 0-0. Conference Record: St. Peter's 0-0, Pittsburgh 0-0. Series Record: First-ever meeting.
GAME NOTES: The Pittsburgh Panthers open up their 2005-06 season tonight, when they welcome the St. Peter's Peacocks to the Petersen Events Center for a non-conference showdown. The Panthers are coming off another strong campaign in 2004-05, as they posted a solid 20-9 overall mark and a fifth place finish in the Big East at 10-6. The team also made an appearance in the NCAA Tournament, although it was upset by Pacific in the opening round. Competing for a fifth straight 20-win season however, may be a bit more difficult this time around, as Pitt must find away to replace two of its most productive starters from last year's team. On thing the Panthers do have going for them is their ability to dominate games at home, having won 49 of their last 50 non-conference home games. As for St. Peter's, it is in search of its first win of the season in its third game already. The Peacocks participated in the 2K Sports College Hoops Classic in Gainesville last week, losing out to Florida (80-51) and Oakland (72-69). Tonight's game marks the first-ever meeting between Pitt and St. Peter's on the hardwood.
The Peacocks' success will in large part depend on the play of Keydren Clark, who is attempting to become just the third player in NCAA Division I history to lead the nation in scoring three consecutive seasons. Clark however, is off to a slow start, although he is still turning in a decent 13.5 ppg. Despite averaging double-figure points, Clark is shooting a dismal 20.5 percent from the field and an even worse 10.5 percent from long range. Clark has tried to make up for the poor shooting in other ways, as he leads the team with 5.5 apg to go along with 5.0 rpg. With Clark struggling, Raul Orta has been able to make a name for himself and is turning in 22.0 ppg. Orta, a transfer from the University of Puerto Rico-Mayaguez, has a lot of experience playing on his country's national team and it has shown thus far. He is shooting a sizzling 63.0 percent from the floor, including a 9-of-12 mark from long range. He has been on of the few bright spots for the Peacocks, who are making good on just 35.9 percent of their total shots as a team.
The Panthers return a solid group of talented players, but it will be incredibly hard to replace starters Chris Taft and Chevon Troutman, who combined for 28.3 points and 15.5 rebounds per game in 2004-05. With those two no longer with the team, Pitt will have to lean more on guard Carl Krauser. The 6-2 Krauser did it all for the Panthers last season and led them in scoring (16.0 ppg) and assists (5.9 apg), in addition to grabbing 4.8 rpg. Joining Krauser in the backcourt is a pair of experienced players in John DeGroat and Antonio Graves. Both started several games a year ago, with DeGroat handing out 4.8 apg and Graves netting 7.8 ppg. While the perimeter game should be strong, the same can't be said about the frontcourt, where the team was hit hardest by early departures of several talented players. Forward Levon Kendall and seven-foot center Aaron Gray both have good size, but neither are much of a scorer, averaging a combined 7.8 ppg a year ago.
St. Peter's is off to a slow start and things wont get any easier against a tough Pitt squad tonight. The Panthers have simply been unbeatable at home against non-conference opponents over the years and with a big game from Krauser and company they should continue that trend tonight.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Pittsburgh 77, St. Peter's 60