Pitt's Durand Johnson drives to the basket as David Nwaba of Cal Poly defends on Dec. 21.
By Paul Zeise / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Pitt got its first Atlantic Coast Conference win Saturday against North Carolina State but the Panthers didn't have much time to celebrate as they had less than 48 hours to get ready for their second league game.
"It is the nature of conference play, quick turnarounds" said an excited Jamie Dixon as he left the locker room Saturday after the Panthers' 74-62 victory against the Wolfpack at PNC Arena in Raleigh, N.C.
As such, the Panthers (13-1, 1-0 ACC) will welcome Maryland (10-5, 2-0) to Petersen Events Center tonight and the Terrapins are one of the tougher teams in the conference to try to figure out.
Maryland has won three games in a row, has conference wins against two teams picked to be at the bottom of the conference -- Boston College and Georgia Tech -- and a loss to Boston University. They were picked to be one of the ACC's NCAA tournament teams.
Pitt: First Atlantic Coast Conference home game. ... Maryland is one of three ACC opponents the Panthers will play twice. ... Is coming off 74-62 win at North Carolina State. ... Won previous matchup against Terrapins, 79-70, Nov. 18, 2010 at Madison Square Garden in New York. ... Has won 11 home games in a row.
Maryland: Leads all-time series, 5-2. ... Has five players averaging double figures in scoring. ... Will leave ACC for Big Ten in July. ... ACC wins against Boston College and Georgia Tech. ... One of its fives losses is to Boston University.
Hidden stat: Pitt coach Jamie Dixon is 12-0 against ACC teams (not including Notre Dame and Syracuse).
The Terrapins were picked to finish seventh in the league -- one spot behind the Panthers -- and feature a balanced attack. All five starters average double figures in scoring.
But Maryland is also in an awkward position that the Panthers were in a season again in the Big East. It is a lame-duck team which is headed for the Big Ten in June.
Maryland coach Mark Turgeon was asked at ACC media days if he feared the Terrapins would not get fair games from ACC officials since they were leaving and he replied, "Not at all, we're going to be good, the ACC knows it and the ACC needs us to be good."
The Terrapins have been good at times this season but finding consistency has been a real issue, and that's mostly because of their frontcourt.
Turgeon has had to shuffle his frontcourt but he told The Washington Post prior to the Terrapins' 77-61 victory Saturday against Georgia Tech that the frontcourt shuffle has started to pay dividends as the players understand they are competing for playing time.
He said he is still playing with combinations of players to figure out what works the best for the long haul but he is starting to see some consistency and that is why the team is playing better.
"It's a guessing game," Turgeon told The Washington Post. "But I think we'll continue to play guys. What we've done is we've built depth. We've really created competition. They know they've really got to earn the playing time. Getting them all in has really helped us."
The Terrapins' two leading scorers are guard/forwards -- Dez Wells (15 ppg, 5.3 rpg) and Jake Layman (13.7 ppg, 5.1 rpg) -- but Turgeon has a number of options at the frontcourt spots and 6-foot-9 sophomore Shaquille Cleare seemingly has found his way to the top of that group.
As for Pitt, the Panthers can't afford to get off to another slow start like the North Carolina State game because the Terrapins aren't nearly as likely to let them back in the game.
North Carolina State started fast and jumped to a 17-2 lead, but the Panthers settled in and grinded away and took a lead for good less than five minutes into the second half.
The Panthers started shooting poorly against North Carolina State but they also didn't rebound the ball particularly well nor did they slow the transition of the Wolfpack.
Dixon said there were a lot of reasons the Panthers got into a 15-point hole early but he had as much of an issue with their shot selection in that stretch as he did anything else.
He said the Panthers nearly shot themselves out of the game because of poor shot selection and they have to be more patient and get to the basket when shots aren't falling.
"Some of our challenges this year have been too much settling for jump shots," Dixon said. "We move the ball pretty well, we find ourselves open and then we took open jump shots that didn't go for us. It can't be all jump shots, we did shoot the ball well early [in the season] but we haven't shot as well recently, but we have always been a team that finds ways to win when we don't shoot well.
"When shots aren't falling, we have to be patient, finish at the rim and find ways to win, be it rebound the ball, play defense, get loose balls, execution.
"We need to make more powerful finishes at the rim, we need to attack the rim."
Maryland and North Carolina State are two of the three ACC teams -- along with Syracuse -- that the Panthers will face in a home-and-home series. They will play at Maryland Jan. 25.
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