(19) Pittsburgh (19-6) at Marquette (16-8)

February 18, 2010

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(19) Pittsburgh (19-6) at Marquette (16-8)

Thursday, February 18th, 9:00 p.m. (et)

The Sports Network

By Ralph Lauro, Associate College Basketball Editor

FACTS & STATS: Bradley Center (19,150) — Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Television: ESPN2. Home Record: Pitt 14-1, Marquette 12-2. Away Record: Pitt 4-3, Marquette 2-5. Neutral Record: Pitt 1-2, Marquette 2-1. Conference Record: Pitt 8-4, Marquette 7-5. Series Record: Tied, 6-6.

GAME NOTES: The surging Marquette Golden Eagles will try to bolster their resume tonight, as they host the 19th-ranked Pittsburgh Panthers in Big East action at the Bradley Center.

Marquette is a team many feel is on the NCAA Tournament bubble despite having defeated three ranked opponents, so a win tonight would go a long way in solidifying its chances for a postseason bid. The team was in pretty bad shape just a few weeks ago, but a current five-game winning streak now has the club sitting at 16-8 overall and 7-5 in conference play. Most recently, the Eagles defeated South Florida, 63-52, on Saturday to move to 12-2 at home.

Pitt meanwhile, is a lock for the NCAA Tournament and it made sure of that with a 98-95 triple-overtime besting of nationally-ranked West Virginia on Friday. It was the third win in a row for the Panthers, who are still in the hunt for the Big East title at 8-4. With a victory tonight, Pitt would also secure its ninth straight 20-win campaign, the longest run in school history.

The all-time series between Pitt and Marquette is tied at 6-6, with the Eagles owning a perfect 3-0 mark in games played at the Bradley Center.

Ashton Gibbs and Brad Wanamaker tallied 24 points apiece and combined for nine rebounds to help Pitt outlast WVU in a wild three-overtime affair last week. Wanamaker also dished out 10 assists for a double-double, while Gibbs went 6- of-13 from long range. Gilbert Brown tacked on 16 points for the Panthers, who went 31-of-42 at the foul line and handed out 23 assists to only eight turnovers. For the season, Gibbs is the team’s leading scorer at 16.8 ppg and he shoots 38.8 percent from downtown and 90.0 percent at the foul line. Wanamaker does just about everything well and he turns in 12.8 ppg, 6.4 rpg and a team-high 4.4 apg. Brown is also a threat for Pitt, as he chips in with 11.2 ppg coming off the bench.

Marquette forced twice as many turnovers as it committed and held USF to a miserable 35.5 percent shooting effort from the floor in a 63-52 win over the weekend. The Eagles, who had just six giveaways, recorded eight steals in the game and made good on 43.1 percent of its field-goal attempts. Lazar Hayward registered a double-double with 18 points and 14 rebounds to lead the charge, while Jimmy Butler posted 15 points and six boards. A player that can get the job done at both ends, Hayward has nearly done it all for Marquette, leading the team with 18.6 ppg, 8.1 rpg and 42 steals. Butler has provided a nice complement to him and turns in 15.3 ppg and 6.6 rpg. Darius Johnson-Odom, a 49.5 percent three-point shooter, adds 12.4 ppg for a Marquette club that is shooting 42.3 percent from beyond the arc.

The Eagles need this game more than Pitt does and they should be able to get the job done behind Hayward and their three-point shooting.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Marquette 71, Pittsburgh 66


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