Pittsburgh has showed mettle in winning consecutive road games to start a challenging five-game stretch. The 11th-ranked Panthers hope to continue that success at home Saturday when they host Oklahoma State at the Petersen Events Center.
After seven home wins - all by double digits and against mostly lesser competition—Pittsburgh (9-0) is in position for a fifth consecutive 10-0 start after gutting out two tough road victories. The Panthers held off intracity rival Duquesne on Dec. 5 before edging Washington 75-74 last Saturday in Seattle, claiming the victory only after officials took nearly five minutes reviewing video that determined a basket by the Huskies’ Justin Dentmon came after time expired.
“Never been in it and hope to never be in it again,” Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon said of the agonizing review. “The players kept coming over saying it wasn’t good … and then we saw some people at the table saying it wasn’t good, too, so during that time we kind of had an inkling.
“I guess it was good TV.”
Despite the graduation of starters Aaron Gray and Carl Krauser, the Panthers appear to be a more balanced offensive team. It also helps that forward Sam Young has emerged as their go-to player. The 6-foot-6 junior is averaging 18.1 points and shooting just under 60 percent from the field, scoring at least 14 points in each game.
Young was limited to 14 against Washington due to foul trouble, but Levance Fields picked up the slack with 20 points and freshman DeJuan Blair contributed 16 and 14 rebounds. Blair has averaged 12.3 points and 11.3 rebounds his last three games and has three double-doubles in his first nine games.
“He was playing against one of the best players in the country (Jon) Brockman and he made big plays all the way through,” Dixon said of Blair. “He’s very coach-able and a great teammate. The physical skills are evident.”
The Panthers have a 26-game home winning streak against non-conference opponents and are 54-1 versus non-conference teams at the Petersen Events Center.
Oklahoma State (5-3) has won three consecutive games after a fourth-place finish at the Maui Invitational, but is still struggling with consistency. The Cowboys needed a game-closing 18-2 run over the final eight minutes to rally past East Tennessee State 78-65 last Saturday as freshman James Anderson hit a season-high six 3-pointers and finished with 26 points.
But coach Sean Sutton was also impressed Anderson had only two turnovers in 34 minutes after having six in 29 minutes of a victory against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi three days prior.
“He’s pretty hot. One thing he did better tonight was take care of the ball. He only had two turnovers,” Sutton said. “Every time James shoots it, he’s been in such a rhythm, you think it’s going in. He had some good looks that didn’t go in, but he still shot 6-for-11.
“We’ve been trying to get him a lot more aggressive on the boards. He makes a big difference out there because he makes plays and he makes shots.”
Anderson is averaging 20.8 points, shooting 52.0 percent overall and 48.1 percent (25-for-52) from 3-point range. He has reached double figures in all eight games, leaving him two shy of the longest streak by a true freshman in school history - established by Obi Muonelo last season at 10.
The Cowboys have not defeated a ranked team on the road since a 72-67 win over then-No. 16 Texas on Jan. 24, 2004, and are just 2-20 in such games since the start of the 1996-97 season.
This is the return game after Oklahoma State defeated Pittsburgh 95-89 in double overtime in the All-College Classic last season in Oklahoma City. The Cowboys have won the last three games between he teams to take a 4-3 lead in the all-time series.