Virginia-Pittsburgh Preview

The Associated Press

Pittsburgh had been thoroughly dominant at home during its inaugural season in the Atlantic Coast Conference - until an ACC powerhouse paid the Panthers a visit.

Following their biggest loss of the season against Duke, the No. 18 Panthers will look to bounce back when they host Virginia on Sunday in a game that will determine second place in the conference.

Pitt (18-3, 6-2) won its first 12 at home this season before struggling in the second half of Monday's 80-65 loss to the No. 17 Blue Devils. The Panthers shot 41.2 percent (21 for 51) overall - a season low on their floor - and were outscored 46-33 after the break.

Lamar Patterson and Talib Zanna, the team's top two scorers who average a combined 31.2 points, combined for 25 on 6-of-21 shooting from the field. They scored 12 of their points at the free throw line.

Patterson, who had five of the Panthers' 10 turnovers, scored most of his 14 in the second half when the outcome was no longer in doubt.

"We just didn't execute and defensively we didn't play the way we were supposed to," Patterson said. "(Duke) denied me the ball the whole game. We were expecting it but we didn't take care of it the way we were supposed to."

Prior to the loss, the Panthers had beaten the first three ACC opponents they hosted by at least 15 points, including a 76-43 rout of Clemson on Jan. 21. They fell to 0-2 against ranked teams - the other defeat coming against No. 2 Syracuse, 59-54, on Jan. 18.

A win against Virginia (16-5, 7-1) will put Pitt in second place behind the Orange, who improved to 8-0 in the conference with a 91-89 overtime win over Duke on Saturday.

The Cavaliers, who have won four consecutive games, will be making their first trip to Pitt since Dec. 5, 1976.

"It's a tough place to play," Virginia forward Akil Mitchell told the team's official website. "I think it's more of a big deal because we know that they're a good team, and it's another opportunity (to beat a quality opponent) ... So that'll be fun."

Virginia has surged into the top of the ACC mix with the best defense in the nation, allowing just 56.0 points per game after shutting down Notre Dame 68-53 on Tuesday.

The team held the Fighting Irish to 42.6 percent shooting, slightly above its average of 38.0 percent allowed over eight ACC games - a conference best.

"I feel like we're so prepared for everything, we're so continuous, that we just grind you down all game," Mitchell said. "That's the way we play."

The Cavaliers are still seeking their first win this season against a Top 25 team. Virginia, which has lost to VCU, Wisconsin and Duke, has not defeated a ranked foe on the road since beating then-No. 15 Minnesota 87-79 on Nov. 29, 2010.

The Panthers have won 17 straight at the Petersen Events Center against unranked foes.

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