Pitt wary to not look past fickle Maryland

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Maryland was supposed to be one of the teams in the ACC that was going to battle for an NCAA tournament berth, but so far the inconsistent Terrapins have had the look of a team that is going to struggle to make the National Invitation Tournament.

Some of their struggles were due to an injury to guard Seth Allen, but he has been back for seven games now and his impact has not necessarily been reflected in Maryland's won-loss record.

The Terrapins are 4-3 with Allen -- and that includes 1-3 in their past four games -- and they are coming off a 65-56 loss Monday at North Carolina State.

Couple Maryland's recent struggles and inconsistency with the fact that Pitt pounded the Terrapins, 79-59, Jan. 6 at Petersen Events Center, and it is easy to see how the Panthers could gain a false sense of confidence when the two teams meet today in a rematch.

Scouting report
Matchup: Pitt (17-2, 5-1 ACC) vs. Maryland (11-8, 3-3), 6 p.m. today, Comcast Center, College Park, Md.

TV, Radio: ESPN2, KDKA-FM (93.7).

Pitt: Beat Maryland, 79-59, Jan. 6 at Petersen Events Center. … Coach Jamie Dixon is 16-0 vs ACC teams (not including Notre Dame and Syracuse). … Lamar Patterson was named to the Oscar Robertson Trophy watch list, an award for national player of the year. … Junior G Cameron Wright is averaging 10.8 points per game and has scored double figures in 11 games.

Maryland: Is 5-3 all time vs. Pitt. … Is 2-0 in games played against Pitt in College Park. … Has five players averaging double figures, led by Dez Wells (14.3 ppg). … Seth Allen is averaging 10.3 points and 3.1 assists per game. He has started the lpast two games. … Is plus-6.3 in rebounding margin.

Hidden stat: Lamar Patterson is third in the ACC in field-goal percentage (.509) and second in the ACC in 3-point percentage (.443).

But coach Jamie Dixon doesn't think that will be the case, nor does he believe that the Panthers will get caught looking ahead to their big matchup Monday with Duke in two days at home.

He said one of the things that has impressed him the most about this team is, despite having five new players (four freshman and a transfer) playing large roles, the Panthers have been mature and task-oriented and he doesn't see that changing anytime soon.

"We have been a very focused group, we have been able to key on the next opponent," Dixon said.

"I think the guys will be prepared and know what to do, but we have to execute as well. We're not going to be surprised by things and we should have a better handle on where they are trying to score from and how they are trying to attack us.

"[The Terrapins] are a team that is dangerous because of the way they play and the way they shoot the ball. To me that is the most important thing for us. The thing is, it was only four or five of games ago that we played them but it seems like we have gone through a lot of different things since.

"I think we have to make sure every game we learn something from it, and so far we have done a good job of that. [The margin the first time was 20] but it was a one-point game late in the first half and we pulled away in the second half. We have handled things like [being overconfident] pretty well."

Pitt (17-2, 5-1 ACC) plays Maryland (11-8, 3-3) tonight at Comcast Center in the first of four "repeat" opponents the Panthers have on their schedule.

The Panthers also will play Wake Forest, North Carolina State and Syracuse a second time this season, but the one major difference between the Terrapins and the other three is that this is their final season in the ACC before they leave for the Big Ten Conference.

"It is Maryland, it is one of the top basketball [programs] in the country or whatever you want to say. They have a national championship," Dixon said.

"It is sort of a one-year rivalry game though as we play them home-and-home, so we have to get the rivalry done in a hurry since it is only going to be one year."

One key difference between the Terrapins now and the previous game is that Allen is starting at point guard as opposed to coming off the bench and playing more at shooting guard.

Dixon said that is a little different look because he looks to score more and the Terrapins are a little more aggressive offensively as a result. But it shouldn't be a major difference because Allen played at the point some in the first game.

"He is a lefty, he is more of a scorer, but they played him some at the point in that game against us," Dixon said. "I don't know how much it will change. Like I said, he can score and we know what he can do. In that first game against us he had 18 points. We think he is a guy who can do both things -- he is a distributor but he is a guy who can really get them going offensively, too.

"I think the key is we need to guard them from shooting 3s. He is a shooter but he is explosive as a scorer as well."

Allen averages 10.3 points and 3.1 assists per game and is one of five Terrapins, led by Dez Wells (14.3 ppg), who average double figures in scoring.

If the Terrapins are going to make a move, their next stretch of seven games -- starting today -- likely will be the time to do it because they will have an opportunity to notch some big wins.

After playing the Panthers, the Terrapins play four of their next six games against North Carolina, Florida State, Virginia and Duke. All except North Carolina are in the top half of the ACC standings.

Paul Zeise: pzeise@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1720 and Twitter @paulzeise.

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