Pitt faces tough challenge
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Pitt will try to accomplish something today that no team has pulled off in more than four years.
The Panthers traveled 2,500 miles to give it a shot.
The University of Washington is riding a 31-game home winning streak against non-conference foes, dating back to December 2003.
No. 12 Pitt (8-0) can end that impressive run -- which is even more daunting than the Panthers' current streak of 26 in a row at Petersen Events Center -- when it meets Washington (4-3) at 3 p.m. at Bank of America Arena.
"We've been able to do pretty well here," Washington coach Lorenzo Romar said Friday afternoon from Seattle. "That's the good news. The bad news is, last year and this year, we have not been able to do well on the road."
But this game is in the comforting confines of the former University of Washington Pavilion, which was built in 1927 and remains a formidable venue after its $40 million facelift and subsequent name change seven years ago.
The Huskies' all-time victory total in the 10,000-seat on-campus site is 829 games, more than any other school in America in a current arena. It's even more than Duke at Cameron Indoor (708 wins).
Sixty of the past 64 opponents -- Pac-10 or not -- have left Seattle with nothing more than an old Nirvana CD.
Top competition doesn't change anything. Washington is 11-2 in its past 13 home games against ranked opponents. Last season the Huskies upset then-No. 2 UCLA.
"It's going to be good," junior guard Levance Fields said. "Washington is going to be tough. It's going to be loud. That's going to be a good challenge for us, especially early in the year."
As if the atmosphere won't be tough enough for the Panthers, who won at Duquesne, 73-68, on Wednesday, Washington is getting healthy. Senior sharpshooter Ryan Appleby, who hasn't played this season since undergoing thumb surgery in November, practiced all week.
Romar said the chances are "fairly high" Appleby, who made a school single-season record 84 3-pointers as a junior, will play against Pitt. Appleby dressed for last week's 96-71 loss at Oklahoma State, but didn't play.
Washington's other losses are to Texas A&M and Syracuse.
This is the second part of a home-and-home, made-for-TV series between the two programs. Pitt won last season's meeting -- held in mid-February smack in the teeth of the Big East schedule -- by a 65-61 score after trailing most of the first half.
Both teams feature different looks in the rematch. Seven-footers Aaron Gray and Spencer Hawes are in the NBA.
But the other four Washington starters are back, including 6-foot-7 junior forward Jon Brockman, who is averaging a double-double (19.3 ppg, 11.6 rpg), and 6-6 sophomore forward Quincy Pondexter (10.0 ppg).
Replacing Hawes in the starting lineup is 6-foot-9 freshman forward Matthew Bryan-Amaning, who was Pitt redshirt freshman Gilbert Brown's teammate at South Kent (Conn.) Prep.
Washington ranks second in the Pac-10 in steals, led by freshman point guard Venoy Overton (2.29 spg). Overton will likely draw Fields, who committed almost as many turnovers against Duquesne (five) as he did the previous seven games combined (seven).
"They like to overplay and deny you the ball," said junior forward Sam Young, averaging a team-best 18.6 points and 8.5 rebounds. "If we do a good job of getting open and executing our plays, it's going to be a good ball-game."
This is Pitt's first game at a Pac-10 school in 16 years, the last being a 20-point loss at Arizona in January 1992.
"It's going to be a tough game," Fields said. "(Washington) played us close and played us hard here, and I expect the same from them at home."
Pitt (8-0) at Washington (4-3)
When and where: 3 p.m. at Bank of America Arena, Seattle
Radio: WWSW-FM (94.5), WBGG-AM (970)
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