Sunday , Jan , 21 , 2007 C.Y. Ellis

Big East elite battle in Steel City

Pittsburgh, PA (Sports Network) – In what may prove to be the best matchup on
the college basketball slate today, the sixth-ranked Pittsburgh Panthers
host the 24th-ranked Marquette Golden Eagles in a battle of Big East
Conference heavyweights.

Marquette is aiming for its fourth straight league win, which would be the
longest streak since joining the Big East, and the club is also in search of
its first win at the Peterson Center. The Golden Eagles are 16-4 overall, and
they improved to 3-2 in Big East action with a 74-65 decision over Louisville
on Monday.

Pittsburgh has matched its best ever start to Big East play with a 5-0 record
against league opponents. The Panthers are 12-0 at home this season and 76-6
all-time at the Peterson Events Center. Pittsburgh stretched its current
overall win streak to seven games on Tuesday with a 63-54 decision over UConn.

The all-time series between these teams is tied at 3-3, and they split a pair
of meetings last season.

Dominic James is the top offensive performer for Marquette, as he is scoring
16.5 ppg to go along with 4.6 apg and 46 steals. Jerel McNeal checks in with
14.7 ppg, and he has dished out 4.1 apg to go along with 61 steals. Wesley
Matthews is the third and final double-digit scorer for the Golden Eagles, as
he is contributing 12.1 ppg. Marquette is netting 72.8 ppg this season while
limiting opponents to 61.5 ppg. James scored 18 points to lead a balanced
offensive attack in the win over Louisville earlier this week. Matthews added
17 points, McNeal posted 15 points and seven assists, Ousmane Barro rounded out
the foursome with 14 points and 11 rebounds. The Golden Eagles connected on 50
percent of their field goal attempts.

Pittsburgh center Aaron Gray is considered one of the nation’s top big men, and
he certainly looked the part in the victory over UConn earlier this week. Gray
racked up 22 points to go along with 19 rebounds and four blocks. Ronald Ramon
continued to be a force off the bench for the Panthers, as he finished with 17
points on the strength of a 4-of-4 effort from behind the arc. Pitt was
uncharacteristically sloppy with the ball, having committed a high total of 18
turnovers. Still, a stifling defensive effort was key to the victory, as the
Panthers limited the Huskies to 35.6 percent shooting from the field. Gray is
averaging 15.1 ppg on 58.7 percent shooting from the floor, and he is pulling
down 10.3 rpg as well. Mike Cook checks in with 11.5 ppg, and Antonio Graves
adds 10.4 ppg. Pitt is limiting teams to 40.2 percent shooting from the field.