Pitt will play Maryland for the second time this season Saturday, but unlike the first meeting between the Terrapins and Panthers, this one will take place at the Comcast Center at College Park, Md., as opposed to Petersen Events Center.
The Panthers (17-2, 5-1 ACC) beat the Terrapins (11-8, 3-3), 79-59, Jan. 6, outscoring Maryland, 43-29, in the second half. The Panthers played with considerable confidence and energy in front of their home crowd.
But this will be a road game for Pitt, and the dynamics will be different, so much so that many people believe the home advantage is worth three to five points.
But Pitt’s players believe the most important thing is which team plays better. .
“I’m not sure about the point system and all that,” junior Cameron Wright said, with a laugh. “But we love playing in front of the [Oakland] Zoo, they give us tons of excitement. We love playing in front of our fans of course, but there is nothing like going on the road and playing in front of their crowd when they are screaming at you and then you can silence them.
“I think it will be good for both teams. We’re not looking at this game any different [than the first time the two teams met]. We know it is another road block in front of us and we are preparing the same way as we always would.”
Coach Jamie Dixon said that the Panthers’ road speaks for itself (59-43 in Big East road games in final 12 years of that conference). He also said that if the Panthers want another win against Maryland they must play well again.
He said Pitt played well defensively against the Terrapins, while limiting them to 35.7 percent from the field (20 of 56) and 32 percent from the 3-point line (8 of25).
“I think if you look at the records, obviously, the home teams generally win,” Dixon said. “We have been very good on the road over the years, I don’t know why it is, so I don’t know what the preparation is for it. You have to have a good team and you have to be ready to defend and rebound.
“I think that is the key because you aren’t going to always shoot it well on the road.
“We have [shot well on the road] at times but you have to defend and rebound, it has to be a constant. But the thing is, we like [playing on the road]. I like going on the road, I think it is exciting for our guys when you go somewhere in January or February and places are going to be packed and you are ranked.”
Dixon said the fact that the Panthers are ranked No. 20 and usually have been ranked in recent seasons, has transformed Pitt into a marquee opponent that draws big crowds and takes the best shot from the other teams.
“Teams have their best crowds of the year [when Pitt visits], that is something we ran into in the Big East, it always seems like we’d see the other team’s biggest crowd,” Dixon said. “One thing we also have seen is if we lose we would be in the middle of some celebrations and that is not a good thing.
“So we remember those as well as the wins, but we clearly had the best record on the road in the Big East over the years so we have had a lot of success with it. It is always fun to go on the road.”
The Panthers have four players from the Washington-Baltimore area and a fifth, Lamar Patterson, is from Lancaster, which isn’t that far away.
“There will definitely be a lot of family and friends coming to the game for us,” said Pitt point guard James Robinson, who is from Mitchellville, Md., and went to DeMatha Catholic, which basically is in the shadow of Maryland’s campus.
“A lot of us are going home or at least close to home, so we’re looking forward to seeing a lot of family and friends. It is going to be a fun atmosphere to play in. We’re expecting a rowdy crowd.”
Beyond Robinson, the Panthers have three players — Jamel Artis, Aron Nwankwo and the injured Durand Johnson — from Baltimore, one of Pitt’s prime recruiting areas.
“We know a lot of their players,” Dixon said. “We have a lot of guys from that area, they have a lot of guys from that area, obviously, so we are very familiar with their players.”
Paul Zeise: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1720 and Twitter @paulzeise.