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Pittsburgh-Marquette Preview

AP - Sports

Since last facing Marquette a month ago, Pittsburgh has turned into one of the hottest teams in the Big East.

A final Big East matchup in Milwaukee, however, may begin changing that.

The No. 16 Panthers go for their eighth win in nine tries Saturday when they attempt to snap the 18th-ranked Golden Eagles' lengthy home winning streak.

Pitt (20-5, 8-4) fell 74-67 in overtime to Marquette at home on Jan. 12 as part of a 1-3 conference start.

The Panthers have since turned things around in stunning fashion, winning seven of eight to go from unranked to among the nation's elite. They validated that lofty status on Feb. 2, when they beat No. 6 Syracuse 65-55 to begin this three-game winning streak.

Coach Jamie Dixon's team extended that surge by knocking off another ranked foe last Saturday, beating then-No. 17 Cincinnati 62-52 to drop the Bearcats out of the Top 25.

Pitt, though, isn't satisfied.

"We've got eight wins in the conference, but we've still got a lot to prove," guard Tray Woodall said. "A lot of people kept saying we couldn't hang with the big boys or we can't hang with the top-tier teams in the Big East. But clearly they don't know what they're talking about."

Facing the Golden Eagles (17-6, 8-3) on the road poses another major challenge.

The Panthers have dropped four of five Big East matchups at the Bradley Center, and this will be the last one since they're moving to the ACC next season.

They dropped the most recent visit 62-57 to then-No. 25 Marquette on Jan. 14, 2012.

That's part of the Golden Eagles' 22-game home winning streak that dates to a loss to Vanderbilt on Dec. 29, 2011. They failed to carry that momentum onto the road Monday, losing 63-55 to No. 15 Georgetown.

Coach Buzz Williams cited Marquette's 12 first-half turnovers among its 19 total and the fact he didn't have a player credited with an offensive rebound in the first 20 minutes as bigger factors in the loss.

"I'm not sure you can win in Division I at home or on the road with those type of numbers," he said.

Increased production from Davante Gardner and would also help.

The junior forward is second on the team with 11.6 points per game, but he's managed just 5.8 over the past five contests, including two versus the Hoyas.

"We do need him to be what he has always been for us," Williams told the team's official website. "We need his points. We need his free-throw points. We need his rebounds."

Gardner had 13 points and eight rebounds while sinking all six of his shots from the field against Pitt last month.

Vander Blue led the Golden Eagles with 22 points in that meeting, but - like Gardner - he struggled Monday. The junior guard finished with seven points while missing all five of his attempts from beyond the arc.

Points may be at a premium against the Panthers this time since they're the toughest defensive team in the league, allowing an average of 54.4 points and 38.9 percent shooting from the floor.

Having a healthy Woodall should also improve Pitt's chances against Marquette. He left the latest meeting after four minutes with a head injury caused during a collision with Marquette's Derrick Wilson during a scramble for a loose ball.

Woodall hasn't missed a game since, and is averaging 11.3 points while connecting on 14 of 36 from 3-point range.

Lamar Patterson had a career-high 22 points against the Golden Eagles last month.

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