Men’s Basketball: Panthers aim to repeat success in rematch against Maryland


By Nate Barnes / Sports Editor

When the Pitt men’s basketball team squared off with Maryland Jan. 6, the Panthers came away with a 20-point win at the Petersen Events Center. Saturday, the scenery shifts to the Comcast Center in College Park, Md., where the Terrapins look for redemption.

In the first matchup between No. 20 Pitt (17-2, 5-1 ACC) and Maryland (11-8, 3-3 ACC), the Panthers didn’t pull away until the second half. After 20 minutes of play, Pitt led by just six points because Maryland successfully used players such as Evan Smotrycz and Jake Layman to stretch the defense from the power forward position.

Pitt head coach Jamie Dixon adjusted by moving redshirt senior forward Lamar Patterson to guard the four position and by playing a guard-heavy lineup. Entering Saturday’s game, limiting Maryland’s shooting is again a priority for the Panthers.

“We kept drilling, talking, reinforcing that they’re going to shoot it from three, guarded and unguarded,” Dixon said. “The thing we talked about was them shooting threes and some of our guys being surprised by their bigger guys.”

Since the two teams played, the Terrapins have won just one game, a 74-66 win at home against Notre Dame.

Similar to when the two teams met the first time, Dez Wells continues to lead Maryland in scoring at 14.3 points per game and is one of five players averaging double-digits. Nick Faust and Seth Allen, each averaging just more than 10 points a game, pair with Wells in the backcourt.

Layman is scoring more than 12 points per game, while Smotrycz is at 11.7 next to his 6.8 rebounds per game. The pair of versatile forwards left a lasting impression on Pitt redshirt junior guard Cameron Wright.

“I thought they shot the ball pretty well,” Wright said. “Their stretch-fours really stretched out and handled the ball pretty well, so that’s something that we’re really preparing for.”

Allen led the Terrapins in scoring when they last played Pitt, putting up 18 points off the bench. Allen has played seven games since his return from injury and is back in the starting lineup.

“We think he’s a guy that can do both things,” Dixon said. “He’s a distributor, but I think he’s a guy that can really get it going, too, at the same time.”

Opposite Maryland’s balanced scoring attack, Pitt boasts Patterson and his team-high 17.4 points per game. Redshirt senior center Talib Zanna is scoring 13.4 points per game and leads the team in rebounds at 7.9 per game.

Wright is also averaging in double-figures with 10.8 points per game.

With Allen starting for Maryland, sophomore point guard James Robinson acknowledged that Pitt needs to make adjustments for his abilities.

“He’s definitely more in attack mode,” Robinson said. “He can score the ball, and he creates plays for others.”

Robinson identified that Pitt’s perimeter defenders need to “keep him in front of us, really, and play good help defense” to keep Allen from making an impact on the game.

While guarding the trio of Allen, Smotrycz and Layman is a critical part of Pitt’s game Saturday, Wright prefers to keep the focus on his own side.

“We don’t single out certain guys,” Wright said. “We know what they can do, and we’re just preparing ourselves for Saturday.”