Texas-Pittsburgh Preview

Texas-Pittsburgh Preview

Published Nov. 19, 2010 1:49 a.m. ET

For the second straight year, Pittsburgh and Texas are meeting in a November tournament championship.

This time, it's the Panthers who have the gaudy ranking while the Longhorns are unranked.

The fifth-ranked Panthers will try to earn a second consecutive early-season title at the expense of Texas on Friday night in the 2K Sports Classic at Madison Square Garden.

Last Nov. 24, Texas (3-0) was ranked third and Pittsburgh (4-0) was not in the AP Top 25 when they met for the championship of the CBE Classic in Kansas City, Mo. The Panthers used an 11-0 run to close the half and take a 34-32 lead before the Longhorns rallied for a 78-62 victory.


Four starters for Texas in that game are gone while Pittsburgh has four starters back from a team that went 25-9 and lost in the second round of the NCAA tournament.

The Panthers have plenty of experience at MSG with a 25-11 mark since 2000-01 while Texas is 5-4 all-time in the building.

"Watching Pitt, I think they're an outstanding team, they're strong, their guard play is tremendous, they feel right at home in this building, they're a physical team, they shoot the ball," Texas coach Rick Barnes said. "Again, you're not ranked No. 5 in the nation without a lot of pieces."

Pittsburgh's experience was evident Thursday in a 79-70 semifinal victory over Maryland. The Panthers placed five players in double figures despite off nights from guards Brad Wanamaker and Ashton Gibbs.

Each entered the game averaging 19.3 points. Gibbs scored 13 while Wanamaker had 10 in 25 minutes as he was limited by foul trouble.

"I think that was something that's going to be a strength of ours,'' coach Jamie Dixon said about having people who can score other than the guards. "Some games we'll have it, other games we've had guys score big for us. ... I think we have a lot of good players, we know that and we continue to improve. They're young guys but they're good, they continue to compete and get better in practice."

The experienced Panthers also have been buoyed by the unheralded Talib Zanna, a redshirt freshman forward who played three minutes last season. Zanna had 14 points and 12 rebounds.

Gibbs and Wanamaker combined to make 7 of 29 shots for 21 points in last season's loss to Texas.

The new-look Longhorns relied on their frontcourt in Thursday's 90-84 overtime victory over No. 13 Illinois. Jordan Hamilton had 25 points and seven rebounds and freshman center Tristan Thompson added 20 and seven.

"They were terrific, those guys have done a good job for us," Barnes said.

Thompson added five of the Longhorns' 10 blocks. He's improved his scoring each game from 12 to 17 to 20 while pulling down seven rebounds in each contest.

"There's no ceiling to it, he continues to get better each and every night he goes out," Barnes said.

Before last season, the only previous meeting for these teams was a 91-87 Pitt win on Nov. 29, 1991 in the Preseason NIT.

Longtime Longhorns fans may remember that Dixon hit a halfcourt shot at the buzzer to beat Texas 55-54 in February 1986 and help TCU win the Southwest Conference title.