When Pitt plays the University of Washington today it will be the Panthers' first game of the season against an opponent from a major conference.
- Matchup: No. 12 Pitt (8-0) vs. Washington (4-3), 3 p.m. today, Bank of America Arena, Seattle, Wash.
- TV, Radio, Internet: FSN Pittsburgh, WWSW-FM (94.5), WBGG-AM (970), www.pittsburghpanthers.com.
- Pitt: Coming off a 73-68 victory at Duquesne. ... Junior F Sam Young (18.6 ppg, 8.5 rpg) scored a game-high 23 points against the Dukes. ... Senior G Mike Cook (10.4 ppg, 3.0 rpg) has made 45 consecutive starts. ... Junior G Levance Fields (9.0 ppg, 4.1 rpg) has 49 assists and 12 turnovers. ... A win would give Pitt its sixth consecutive 9-0 start.
- Washington: Coming off a 96-71 loss at Oklahoma State. ... Led by junior F Jon Brockman (19.3 ppg, 11.6 rpg), junior G Justin Dentmon (14.3 ppg, 2.7 rpg) and sophomore F Quincy Pondexter (10.0 ppg, 5.4 rpg). ... Lost at Pitt last season, 65-61.
- Hidden stat: Washington is 9-16 all time against teams from the Big East.
For the Huskies, it will be another in a long line of early-season games against some of the top teams in the country.
Washington is playing its fourth game against a team from a BCS conference and its third against a ranked foe. The Huskies lost all three -- to No. 16 Texas A&M, Syracuse and Oklahoma State. Syracuse has fallen out of the rankings since it played the Huskies last month.
Washington lost to Texas A&M and Syracuse at Madison Square Garden in the NIT tip-off tournament. Last week, the Huskies traveled to Oklahoma State and suffered their worst loss of the season, a 96-71 thumping at the hands of the unranked Cowboys.
But Pitt is expecting a much different team today, if for no other reason that the Huskies will be playing in the friendly home atmosphere of Bank of America Arena, where they are 4-0 this season and have won 31 consecutive non-conference home games, including three against ranked teams.
This is the second game of a two-game series between the two schools. Pitt won last season at the Petersen Events Center, 65-61.
"From what I remember last year this is going to be a tough game," junior point guard Levance Fields said. "They played us close here last year. I expect them to do the same at home."
Washington has changed much since that mid-February game. The Huskies lost center Spencer Hawes to the NBA after his freshman season. And senior guard Ryan Appleby, the team's best outside shooter, has yet to play in a game this season because of a broken thumb.
Appleby might try to play today, but he told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer that he was unsure of his ability to handle the ball with a splint on his right (shooting) hand.
In addition, reserve guard Adrian Oliver, part of a heralded recruiting class that included Hawes, left school earlier this week and informed coach Lorenzo Romar of his plans to transfer.
Those defections and injuries have left the Huskies a bit shorthanded when competing against the elite teams on its schedule. They lost to Texas A&M, 77-63, and to Syracuse, 91-85.
"They've had some things happen," Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said. "Their rotation hasn't been consistent. But that's normal for teams this time of year."
One of the lone bright spots for Washington has been junior forward Jon Brockman, who is averaging 19.3 points and 11.6 rebounds per game. Brockman has posted three double-doubles already, including a 31-point, 18-rebound game against Utah.
He had 13 points and nine rebounds in last season's matchup.
That game was a battle of centers. But those 7-footers now are earning paychecks in the NBA. Pitt's Aaron Gray was selected in the second round by the Chicago Bulls. Hawes was taken in the first round by the Sacramento Kings. Like Pitt, the Huskies are playing with a smaller lineup.
"They're playing more like they used to play," Dixon said.
That means more high-scoring affairs. The Huskies are averaging 79.4 points per game. Their problem has been a porous defense that has allowed 75 points per game and opponents to shoot 47.8 from the field.
"We have to do a good job of executing our offense," junior forward Sam Young said. "They like to overplay. They like to deny the ball. If we do a good job of getting open and executing our plays, we should do well."
Ray Fittipaldo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1230.