Pittsburgh Basketball looks to keep its winning ways on the road, taking on a surging Virginia Cavaliers squad.
After beating NC State on the road last week, Pittsburgh Basketball is getting closer to the bubble again, thanks to a nice 5-2 record away from home. But with a 3-6 record versus Quad 1/2 opponents and two Quad 3 home defeats, there's still plenty of work to do.
Luckily for the Panthers, they have a massive opportunity Tuesday night against Virginia (19-5, 10-3 ACC). At one point in ACC play, the Cavaliers looked like they were going to miss the NCAA Tournament, having three blowout losses. They've been perfect since then, having won eight straight games, coming off an 80-76 road win over Florida State.
Here's a look at three keys to the game for the Panthers to winning this battle.
1. Limit impact of Reece Beekman
There's no question who the star of the Cavaliers is, with the 5th-year senior leading the team with 13.8 ppg and 6.1 apg, along with 2.4 spg. He's one of the best two-way players in the country and does so much for his team. He's likely to guard Jaland Lowe, Pitt's ball-handler as well.
In the eight-game win streak, Beekman is averaging 15.9. The Panthers need to slow him down somehow but the guards have been solid defensively. Limiting his production and how many points he's responsible for is the biggest key to the game.
2. Avoid 3s from Isaac McKneely and Jacob Groves
On the season, Beekman only shoots 30% from deep. As a team, Virginia is fairly average overall, which makes their offense vulnerable. The Cavaliers do have a pair of shooters who carry the team in that department, in McKneely (48% 3PT) and Groves (51% 3PT). Only Andrew Rodhe (28% 3PT) is the only other shooter on the team to even think about.
McKneely is coming off a 29-point performance at Florida State and has scored at least eight points in the last 12 games. How he plays will be another key for Pittsburgh defensively. They'll need to do a better job on him than they did the last sharpshooter they played on the road, giving up 25 points and 5/10 3PT shooting to DJ Horne.
3. Jaland Lowe/Bub Carrington having mature games
The freshmen duo has had plenty of ups and downs but as games against NC State, Wake Forest, and Duke have shown, these two are capable of having big games. But those three teams I just listed aren't known for having stout defenses, which makes things easier. Virginia, has one of the best defenses in the country and can be a problem for guards like these two who want to play fast.
With leading scorer Blake Hinson likely being defended by Ryan Dunn, Pittsburgh is going to have to find ways to produce at Virginia. If the guards get flustered, especially dealing with Beekman, it could be a long night for them. This will be the toughest test to date but if they can show out at Duke, Lowe and Carrington can have big games against UVA too.