Tough Test

Tallahase,Fl - After rarely being challenged in its first five weeks of the season, Pittsburgh expects to face a much tougher test in its final tuneup before Big East Conference play begins.

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The third-ranked Panthers look to open with their 12th straight victory when they play their first road game of the season Sunday against Florida State, which is trying to open with 12 wins in 13 games.

Oddsmakers from Online Sportsbook Sportsbook.com have made the Pittsburgh –7.5 point spread favorites for Wednesday’s game against the Florida St. Current College Basketball Public Betting Information shows that 63% of more than 248 bets for this game have been placed on the Pittsburgh –7.5.

Pittsburgh is 11-0 for the second straight season and the third time in the last four, and has been making it look easy. The Panthers, who open conference play at Rutgers on New Year's Eve, have won six games by at least 19 points, and their closest margin of victory was Wednesday's 79-66 win over Siena.

Pitt has had the luxury of playing only two games away from home - it defeated Texas Tech and Washington State in the Legends Classic in Newark, N.J. - but its first true road game will come against the best team it has faced all season.

The Seminoles (11-1) have won four straight games, and are off to their best start since opening 13-1 in 2003-04. Their winning streak began with a 57-55 victory over then-No. 23 Florida on Dec. 7 - snapping a six-game losing streak to ranked opponents - and they are coming off a 71-48 victory over Charleston Southern on Thursday.

"The level of concentration is extremely high, and they were focused on doing the little things the right way," Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton said. "When you do that it doesn't really matter who you're playing against you give yourself the best chance to win."

To give themselves a chance for the upset, the Seminoles will have to focus on slowing down Pitt's DeJuan Blair, who has dominated opponents in the paint.

Blair had 21 points and 16 rebounds on Wednesday for his seventh double-double in 10 games.

"I expect to have a big game every time I step on the floor," said Blair, who is averaging 15.2 points and a Big East-best 13.1 rebounds.

Blair, who missed Pitt's 74-60 win over Belmont on Nov. 25 with right knee inflammation, has helped the Panthers outrebound their opponents in all 10 games he has played. Pitt was outrebounded 44-34 in the game he missed.

"He's got a gift for it, without a doubt," Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said of Blair's rebounding abilities. "You could coach guys all day everyday and they would never be as good at it as he is. His hands, his width, his tenacity are all things that are innate for him."

The 6-foot-7 Blair will be matching up against Florida State's 7-foot-1 Solomon Alabi, who is coming off the best game of his career.

Alabi had career highs of 16 points, 14 rebounds and six blocked shots in the Seminoles' win on Thursday.

"I have the mind-set that I have to play harder every game out," said Alabi, who is averaging 8.5 points, 8.8 rebounds and 2.8 blocks during Florida State's winning streak. "I believe by getting rebounds and blocking shots will push me to go harder."

Florida State improved to 6-0 at home with Thursday's victory, and has won two of its last three games against Top 5 opponents at the Donald L. Tucker Center.

This is the first meeting between the Panthers and Seminoles since Pitt's 88-66 home win on Nov. 24, 2006.

The Panthers, who lead the all-time series 8-1, have won five straight games over Florida State since an 83-76 loss on Dec. 21, 1984.

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Posted: 12/21/08 1:00 AM ET

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