Pittsburgh puts its school record 29-game home non-conference win streak on the line Monday, when it faces an opponent that nearly brought down a similar streak recently.
The sixth-ranked Panthers look to follow up an outstanding effort in their opener with another one when they meet Miami of Ohio.
Pittsburgh (1-0) had no trouble in an 86-63 win over Fairleigh Dickinson on Friday. DeJuan Blair was overpowering inside with 17 points and 13 rebounds as the Panthers opened the game on a 16-2 run and never looked back.
The Panthers’ defense forced 20 turnovers and limited Fairleigh Dickinson to 42.9 percent (21-of-49) shooting from the field.
“I don’t know if I’ll see a better team the rest of the season,” Fairleigh Dickinson coach Tom Green said. “This is my 26th year (of coaching), and we play three or four big-time teams every year, and I don’t know if I’ve seen a team play man-to-man defense as well as Pitt plays it.
“That’s probably the best defense we’ve ever played against. We have 12 or 13 plays we can run, but we couldn’t run any of them against them.”
Miami (1-1) has already faced a ranked team, and nearly pulled off an upset before falling 64-59 at No. 4 UCLA on Thursday. The RedHawks held a five-point lead in the second half, but couldn’t avoid becoming the 30th straight non-conference visitor to fall at Pauley Pavilion.
Now, they will try to avoid becoming the 30th straight visiting club to lose a non-conference game against the Panthers. Miami coach Charlie Coles feels the experience against UCLA - led by former Pittsburgh coach Ben Howland - may serve his team well in this matchup.
“It’s like playing Ben Howland twice,” Coles said.
Mike Bramos scored 22 points and was the only RedHawk in double figures Thursday, when Miami stayed in the game by taking excellent care of the ball with only nine turnovers.
“We played a good team on their home floor,” Coles said. “Of course, I would have liked to have won this game, but if you lose, I want to make sure what carryover we have. I hope this is a good carryover and we take away what we did right and not the emotions of the game.”
Coles’ team will be tested by an imposing Pitt frontcourt that includes Blair and Sam Young. Young, the Panthers’ leading returning scorer at 18.1 points per game, added 15 points Friday.
Pitt also received a boost by the presence of Levance Fields. The senior guard, returning from a broken foot that limited him to 25 games in 2007-08, had 15 points and eight assists in 25 minutes.
“He really changes our team when he plays,” Panthers coach Jamie Dixon said.
Miami is 10-2 all-time against Pittsburgh, but the teams haven’t met since 1968.