Men’s Basketball: Panthers put hot streak on line against Wake Forest


By Nate Barnes / Sports Editor

For Pitt Coach Jamie Dixon, predictable isn’t a term he’d use to describe Wake Forest’s record. Just look at their recent schedule.

“We obviously know what they did against North Carolina, and we know what they did against Virginia.”

The games Dixon mentioned resulted in a win for Wake Forest (11-4, 1-1 ACC) against conference heavyweight North Carolina and a loss on the road to middling Virginia. For the Panthers to avoid a fate similar to that suffered by the Tar Heels against the Demon Deacons, Dixon stressed the need for a good start to Saturday’s game.

“We’ve gotta come out there and do the things we need to do and not let them get going early,” Dixon said.

Because of Wake Forest’s loss to Virginia, Dixon has conveyed the message of a good start to his players. And it appears as though the player have taken note. 

“They’re just coming off a tough loss, so they’re going to come out strong,” freshman forward Jamel Artis said. “We’ve just got to come and play like we do every game.”

Pitt (14-1, 2-0 ACC) looks to improve on its perfect conference record, albeit only two games into ACC play. The Panthers are led by redshirt senior forward Lamar Patterson’s team-best 17.3 points and 4.4 assists per game.

Redshirt senior center Talib Zanna anchors Pitt in the frontcourt with his 12.1 points and team-high 7.7 rebounds per game. Zanna nearly recorded his fifth double-double of the season against Maryland when he scored 15 points and pulled down nine rebounds.

Wake Forest is led in the scoring department by sophomore guard Codi Miller-McIntyre’s 15.9 points per game, and the Demon Deacons feature three others players averaging double-digit points.

Sophomore Devin Thomas poses a test for Pitt in the paint with his 6-foot-9-inch, 245-pound frame. Thomas is head coach Jeff Bzdelik’s second-leading scorer at 10.7 points per game. The forward leads the Demon Deacons with 8.9 rebounds per game.

“Big physical guy, runs the floor,” Dixon said. “He’s a guy that can drive it, he’s an inside-out guy, good passer.”

Because of the matchup problems Thomas poses with his capabilities in the frontcourt and the perimeter, freshman forwards Michael Young and Artis will face another defensive challenge after squaring off against the perimeter-oriented Evan Smotrycz of Maryland.

“They’re very aggressive,” Young said. “Their three and their four go for offensive rebounds.”

In addition to Miller-McIntyre and Thomas, senior guard Coron Williams and senior forward Travis McKie score more than 10 points per game. Williams, a graduate student, is spending his final year of eligibility at Wake Forest after playing four years at Robert Morris.

Also in the starting lineup, Tyler Cavanaugh is a type of forward that is similar to Smotrycz and Albany’s Sam Rowley. The sophomore from Jamesville, N.Y., scores just less than nine points per game and has started all 15 of Wake Forest’s games this season.

“He’s kind of a stretch four that will drive it,” Dixon said. “That’s something that we’ve seen.”

Players such as Cavanaugh are becoming more common in college basketball, and the Panthers had the chance to play against a number of them — such as Rowley — in nonconference play.

“I think that’s something we’ve seen more of,” Dixon said. “We’ve seen more stretch fours in the nonconference, so you see more opportunities of that.”

While the Panthers will adjust to what the Demon Deacons bring to the table, their attitude remains the same.

“Same game plan: Go out there and win the rebounding margin by 10-plus, be physical, always be physical, always tough,” Young said. “Different team, same attitude.”