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South Carolina State Vs. Pitt: Panthers Back On Court After Trying Week

After a recent challenging stretch in recent games against Tennessee and Oklahoma State, Pitt gets what should be a bit of a breather today against South Carolina State. But the game isn't the focal point of the basketball program, as the team has been through a bit of turmoil after it was known that star freshman Khem Birch had decided to leave the team.

The game is in the background of what's been a busy week for Pitt in general. Not only did Birch leave, but the football program also lost its head coach Todd Graham, who bolted for Arizona State. Still, this contest is a good way for Pitt to try to get their minds off of the off-field/court issues.

South Carolina State comes into the Pete with a 4-6 record. In their two big games against Virginia and Baylor, they were blown out, losing by a combined 57 points. They were also beaten soundly by teams such as Georgia State, Norfolk State, and Gardner Webb and come into this game having lost four in a row.

Don't look for the Bulldogs to come in and score a lot of points. The team scores only 66 points a game and the team shoots 40% from the field - near the bottom of the NCAA. There is a player to watch out for, though. Senior guard/forward Brandon Riley averages just under 21 points a game and is a three-point threat. He's hit 19 of them on the season and shoots 41% from that distance.

With the loss of Birch, Pitt will likely look to true freshman Malcolm Gilbert for playing time. Gilbert looked as if he were headed for a redshirt with Pitt's big men all contributing, but the Birch loss gives him an opportunity. Meanwhile, Dante Taylor, who's played well recently, will probably regain his starting role.

For more on the game and Pitt basketball, check out SB Nation's Pitt Panthers blog, Cardiac Hill.

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