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Pitt vs. Rutgers: Panthers looking for first Big East win

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The focus on Saturday will be on Pitt's bowl game against Ole Miss. But before that, the men's basketball team will face Rutgers on the road.

The Panthers fell short against their first conference game against Cincinnati earlier this week. They'll look for a bit of redemption when they square off against the Scarlet Knights. Besides the Big East tie, the two teams also share Rutgers' head coach Mike Rice in common. Rice was born in Pittsburgh and was previously an assistant at Pitt under Jamie Dixon.

Like Pitt, it's pretty difficult to gauge just how good Rutgers may be. The Scarlet Knights lost their two major tests of the season so far, falling to Syracuse and Mississippi. The team also has an embarrassing loss to St. Peter's at the beginning of the year, but it was their opener and Rutgers has played better since then.

Also like the Panthers, Rutgers has shot the ball well this season. Heading into the weekend, they ranked No. 28 in the nation in field goal percentage, making over 47 percent of their shots. The Scarlet Knights can score points and Pitt's defense will need to step up.

Leading the way for the Scarlet Knights is guard Eli Carter. Carter is only a sophomore, but one of the best scorers in the Big East, racking up more than 17 points per contest. Pitt kept him in check a bit in last year's game - the guard shot only 31 percent from the field and was a dismal 1-9 from three-point range. But he still ended up with 14 points and two steals, so it's not as if he was completely stopped. A year older, Carter will probably be anxious to atone for the five turnovers he had against the Panthers last year.

Pitt should be able to win this game, but playing at the RAC is never easy for the team. In their last game there in 2011, a No. 2 Panthers team won by only three points. Before that in 2008, Pitt won by only six. It's a tough place to play and it won't be an easy win for the team.

It's early, but this is a big game for both teams. One will even their conference record while the other will fall into an 0-2 hole.

Photographs by dizfunk used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.