12:00 PM ET, January 6, 2008
The Pavilion, Villanova, Pennsylvania
Levance Fields had a big game to lead Pittsburgh over Villanova in last season's lone meeting between the teams. The Panthers can only wish he was available for the rematch.With its junior point guard out due to injury, 13th-ranked Pittsburgh becomes the last Big East team to open conference play Sunday when it visits the Pavilion to face the No. 17 Wildcats.Fields, who scored a team-high 20 points in a 65-59 win over Villanova last Jan. 29, was expected to be among the catalysts for a deep, talented Pittsburgh team that finished 12-4 and tied for second place in the Big East with Louisville last season before losing to UCLA in the regional semifinals of the NCAA tournament.Fields, however, suffered a broken foot in an 80-55 loss at Dayton on Dec. 29, just one game after forward Mike Cook was lost for the season when he tore his left ACL in a 65-64 overtime win over then-No. 6 Duke on Dec. 20."We got caught off-guard with Levance's injury," senior guard Keith Benjamin said. "But we have to keep going."The Panthers (12-1) were able to get one game under their belts without Fields in a 92-75 win over Lafayette on Wednesday. Benjamin scored 20 points and Sam Young added 19 as Pittsburgh overcame 17 3-pointers by the Leopards.Benjamin made his first start of the season in place of Fields while Gilbert Brown added 10 points in his second start replacing Cook."We've had to become a new team the last several days ... and I think we've responded really well," Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon said. "This is an opportunity for these guys (the new starters) to get better and it will help us down the road. What happened to us is rare, to lose two guys like that, but we're not making excuses."Villanova coach Jay Wright wasn't offering any excuses after his team opened Big East play with an 84-76 loss at DePaul on Thursday. The Wildcats (10-2, 0-1), who have no senior starters, fell behind by 15 points in the first half and were unable to recover."We just have to learn mental toughness on the road. There was times when we just came down and turned the ball over. It was more just trying to do too much," Wright said.Villanova has played three straight games without center Casiem Drummond, who started the first six games and is averaging a team-high 7.9 rebounds. Drummond is out with a stress fracture in his right ankle and his status for Sunday is uncertain.His absence could hamper Villanova's ability to defend Pittsburgh's top post players, DeJuan Blair and Tyrell Biggs. Blair, however, comes off back-to-back nine-point efforts while Biggs turned in his best game of the season Wednesday with 19 points on 9-of-11 shooting."Tyrell is a great player who's going to have games where he scores," Dixon said. "He's got a great stroke and he makes shots. What we need him to do is defend well, and get defensive rebounds. He's been great getting offensive rebounds the last couple games, which is an area where we need help too."While Pittsburgh won last season's meeting with Villanova at the Wachovia Center, it has lost five straight visits to the Wildcats' on-campus home, the Pavilion. The Panthers, who have won five of the last seven overall meetings, will host the Wildcats on Jan. 30.
|Avg Points Allowed||65.2||69.3|