PITT Hosts Duquesne

Pittsburgh, PA - Pittsburgh blew out its first seven opponents last season before receiving a tough test from Duquesne.

The Panthers are hoping their crosstown rival doesn't provide nearly as much of a challenge this time.

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Seeking their seventh consecutive 8-0 start Wednesday, the third-ranked Panthers look for their eighth straight win over the Dukes, who were blown out by a top 10 team in their latest game.

Oddsmakers from online sports book Sportsbook.com have made Pittsburgh –17.5 point spread favorites (NCAAB Odds) for today's game (View Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 77% of bets for this game have been placed on Pittsburgh –17.5 (View NCAAB Bet Percentages).

Quick starts have been the norm for Pitt under coach Jamie Dixon, who's 31-0 in November in six seasons with the Panthers. Pitt wrapped up its latest successful opening month by winning the Legends Classic in Newark, N.J.

Following an 80-67 win over high-scoring Texas Tech in the semifinals Friday, Pitt faced a much slower pace in the championship game Saturday. Despite shooting a season-low 35.4 percent, the Panthers posted a 57-43 victory over Washington State, which came in as the nation's stingiest defensive team.

"You're talking about two good defensive teams nationally,'' Dixon said. "Washington State is up there and people say we play pretty good defense and when there are good defensive teams you're not going to look smooth.''

Pitt beat Texas Tech despite getting three points on 1-of-9 shooting from Levance Fields, but the senior guard responded with 14 against the Cougars, hitting two key shots late after Washington State pulled within six.

"Players don't think about shots they missed,'' said Fields, averaging 12.1 points on the season. "I know I don't because my teammates and coaches have confidence in me and I have the ball in my hands.''

After a 13-for-17 shooting night in a career-high 33-point effort against Belmont last week, Sam Young struggled from the field in the two games in New Jersey, going 14-for-37 (37.8 percent). Young, though, averaged 19.5 points and 8.0 rebounds in the tournament and earned MVP honors.

He's scoring 19.4 points per game on the season.

Young, the Big East's most improved player last season, led the way as Pitt topped Duquesne 73-68 almost exactly one year ago. He scored 23 points Dec. 5 to spark the Panthers to the tight victory after they'd won their first seven games by an average of 30.3 points.

Pitt has won its first seven this season by an average of 19.7 points.

Duquesne (4-1) lost its top three scorers from last season's team, but won its first four games this season behind sophomore Damian Saunders, who's averaging 17.8 points and 2.6 steals. Saunders had a career-high 22 points and 10 rebounds Friday, but Duquesne was no match for then-No. 7 Duke, which won 95-72 at Durham.

The Dukes, who use three freshmen and three sophomores among their top eight players, trailed 52-32 at the half.

"Towards the beginning, I think the pressure really got to (us) of playing Duke,'' Saunders said.

The loss was Duquesne's 23rd in a row to a ranked opponent.

A slow start ultimately cost the Dukes against Pitt last season. They fell behind 14-0 before closing the gap late in the first half with the Panthers' DeJuan Blair in foul trouble.

Blair, the Big East's co-rookie of the year as a freshman, had 10 points and nine rebounds in that game. He's averaging 15.3 points as a sophomore and is among the top five rebounders in the country at 12.3 per contest.

This is the 77th meeting between Duquesne and Pitt, which has won 26 of the last 29 matchups.

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Posted: 12/3/08 12:06 AM ET

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