NCAA BK

Wed, Feb 5, 2014 - 7:00 PM ET
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Pittsburgh-Miami Preview

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A third straight loss would almost surely knock Pittsburgh from the Top 25.

A favorable schedule against some old foes may prevent that from happening.

The No. 25 Panthers attempt to bounce back from one of their worst performances of the season Wednesday night when they face Miami for the first time in a decade.

Pittsburgh (18-4, 6-3 ACC) remained part of the national rankings, despite averaging 55.0 points and shooting 36.7 percent in back-to-back losses to then-No. 17 Duke and Virginia.

The Panthers haven't endured a three-game slide since dropping five in a row Feb. 8-26, 2012.

They moved closer to that dubious mark Sunday, giving up the decisive 3-pointer with 0.4 seconds left in regulation to fall 48-45 at home to the Cavaliers.

Pittsburgh certainly didn't do itself any favors against Virginia - or in the AP Poll - by shooting 31.9 percent from the floor.

"I think it's just something we have to get better at," coach Jamie Dixon said of Pitt's struggles around the basket. "It's something we've been working on, talking about, and trying to finish."

Dixon may see some improvement quickly against a pair of struggling opponents. They Panthers visit Miami (11-10, 2-6) before hosting last-place Virginia Tech on Saturday, two teams they haven't faced since they were in the Big East in 2003-04.

Pitt had won four of five against the Hurricanes before it left for the ACC.

Miami is shooting 40.1 percent from the floor in conference play, and has lost three in a row after falling 74-71 at Maryland last Wednesday. They followed that up with Saturday's 64-49 victory over Norfolk State of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference.

"We have some things that really need to be improved to be a contender every night. To be competitive with the teams we're playing," coach Jim Larranaga said. "You have to really know your role and execute your role, and that becomes especially important in that last five minutes. You have to know who's going to take the shots and you can't turn the ball over.

"That's been a challenge all year, and we knew it was going to be that way."

Larranaga could also use a better shooting performance from Rion Brown, who went 5 for 13 - 3 for 10 from beyond the arc - while finishing with 15 points Saturday. That came after he tied his career high with 25 points against the Terrapins.

Pittsburgh's Lamar Patterson is also looking to show improvement. The team's leading scorer has missed 21 of 28 shots while totaling 24 points over the last two games.

Still, he ranks among the ACC leaders with an average of 17.4 points and 48.5 percent shooting, including 42.0 from 3-point range.

It's unclear if forward Talib Zanna will be available due to an ankle injury that limited him to a season-low two points and three rebounds Sunday. He leads the team with 7.8 boards per game, and is second with 12.9 points.

"We will see," Dixon said. "He seemed to be limping the entire time I was watching him play, but he said he was fine. He certainly didn't look as explosive."

Tagged: Virginia, Pittsburgh

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