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Game Preview: Virginia Basketball vs. Pittsburgh

The Cavaliers look to bounce back against the Panthers in their first ACC game of the season

Virginia had won four straight games until a disastrous defensive performance in the first half on Monday night allowed Iowa to hang 44 points on the Hoos before halftime. The Cavaliers played an excellent second half on both sides of the ball to mount an epic comeback. Behind a breakout performance from true freshman Taine Murray, who scored 11 of his 14 points in the second half off the bench, Virginia erased a 21-point deficit and rallied to take the lead. Ultimately, UVA fell to Iowa on a game-winning bank shot by Joe Toussaint with eight seconds remaining. Virginia looks to get back in the win column as the Cavaliers welcome Pittsburgh to John Paul Jones Arena on Friday in their first ACC game of the season.

Game Details

Who: Virginia Cavaliers (5-3) vs. Pittsburgh Panthers (2-5)

When: Friday, December 3rd at 8pm

Where: John Paul Jones Arena in Charlottesville, Virginia

How to watch: ACC Network

All-time series: Virginia leads 17-4

Last meeting: Virginia defeated Pittsburgh 73-66 at John Paul Jones Arena on February 6, 2021

By the Numbers

Virginia Cavaliers vs. Pittsburgh Panthers

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Opponent Outlook: Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh opened the season with a 15-point home loss to the Citadel. After losing another game by 15 points at West Virginia, the Panthers picked up their first wins of the season by defeating UNC-Wilmington 59-51 and Towson 63-59. Things have not been great for Pitt since then, however, as the Panthers suffered back-to-back double-digit home losses to Vanderbilt and UMBC. Pittsburgh played very well defensively against Minnesota on Tuesday night in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge and held the Gophers scoreless for over five minutes down the stretch. The Panthers had a late lead, but they gave up a putback layup to Minnesota’s Luke Loewe with 2.4 seconds left and fell 54-53 for their third straight loss.

Pittsburgh’s main issues are on the offensive end, as the Panthers have scored over 60 points in only three of their seven games so far this season. Pittsburgh has a costly problem with ball security, turning the ball over 107 times this season. The Panthers average 15.3 turnovers per game and give up an average of 16.3 points per game off of those turnovers. Additionally, Pitt has struggled to shoot the ball from long range, shooting just 26.7% from three as a team. Pittsburgh rebounds the ball well, outrebounding opponents by 49 so far this season.

The Panthers are led by sophomore forward John Hugley, who recorded a 25-point, 14-rebound double-double in the loss to Minnesota. He averages 15.9 points per game and 8.1 rebounds per game and shoots 50.6% from the floor. Sophomore guard Femi Odukale is second on the team in scoring at 12.1 points per game. He leads the team in assists (26) but also leads the team in turnovers (24). Odukale is the team’s best three-point shooter at 35.7% on the season. 

What to Watch For

Cavaliers try to play a complete game

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Virginia has rarely delivered complete performances this season. The Cavaliers struggled from start to finish in the losses to Houston and Navy and were extremely slow out of the gate in the first half against Lehigh, Georgia, and Iowa. The sluggish start against the Hawkeyes was especially damaging, as UVA still lost to Iowa despite playing a fantastic second half. The Hoos exhausted a lot of energy just trying to erase the 21-point deficit and could not quite close the game out in the final minute despite regaining the lead. As they play their first ACC opponent of the season, look for the Cavaliers to try to be solid on both ends of the floor for all 40 minutes on Friday night against the Panthers.

More minutes for Taine Murray

Taine Murray played a pivotal role in the comeback effort against Iowa. The true freshman from New Zealand scored 11 of his 14 points in the second half, including a series of clutch shots down the stretch to help the Cavaliers take the lead. Murray had scored only four points in the entire season and had barely seen the floor in the games leading up to Monday night’s contest against Iowa. Murray did more than enough in his performance against the Hawkeyes to show that he deserves more substantial minutes off the bench.

Virginia looks to continue to dominate series against Pittsburgh

The all-time series between Virginia and Pittsburgh has been quite one-sided and particularly so in recent history. UVA leads the all-time series 17-4 and the Cavaliers have won six straight games against the Panthers as well as 13 of the last 14. Pittsburgh has beaten Virginia just once since joining the ACC in 2013. 

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