Pitt readies for Providence swingman
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Pitt is beginning the new year a lot like it ended the old one -- bracing for one of the nation's top scorers.
One week after topping Kemba Walker-led Connecticut, No. 5 Pitt will play a lesser-known -- but just as prolific -- scorer when it travels to Providence at 7 tonight.
Providence senior Marshon Brooks doesn't get the same national attention as Walker, but the 6-foot-5 swingman is nearly as dangerous. He is the No. 2 scorer in the Big East and ranks 10th in the nation at 23.1 points per game.
"He's a guy that can put the ball in the basket," coach Jamie Dixon said. "He's one of those relentless scorers."
Brooks, not Walker, is the Big East's hottest scorer. Brooks has scored at least 20 points nine games in a row and is averaging 27.2 points per game over the past five weeks. Walker is averaging 24.3 points during the same span.
"Marshon really plays off the ball, and he can create for himself," said Pitt small forward Gilbert Brown, who will start off guarding Brooks. "We really have to have a great team defensive effort."
Brooks can do more than score; he ranks first or second on the Friars in rebounds, assists, steals and blocked shots.
He performs his best against top competition. He scored 33 points against Alabama, 28 at Boston College and 27 at Syracuse.
He scores in a variety of ways. Whether it's on the perimeter (he leads the team in 3-pointers), on an offensive put-back or in transition. Providence coach Keno Davis moves Brooks around, from shooting guard to small forward to power forward.
"They try to get matchup situations to exploit him," Dixon said.
Walker scored 31 points in Pitt's 78-63 victory over then-No. 4 Connecticut on Dec. 27, but he went 10 for 27 from the field. Walker was the only UConn player to reach double figures, and the rest of the Huskies combined for only nine field goals -- on 33 attempts.
Pitt (13-1, 1-0 Big East) forced Walker to take tough shots and made him work hard on defense, chasing Ashton Gibbs and Brad Wanamaker around the floor.
Pitt, coming off its longest break of the season, will take a similar defensive approach against Providence (11-4, 0-2), which upset the then No. 1-Panthers two years ago at Dunkin' Donuts Center.
If Brooks is going to extend his hot streak, he will have to work for every shot. Pitt will make sure he doesn't get a lot of scoring help from his teammates such as sophomore point guard Vincent Council (15.5 ppg), the Big East assists leader, and freshman Gerard Coleman (10.5).
"Our focus is to make every possession tough," Wanamaker said. "We are going to try to make him work on the defensive end and try to wear him out a little bit. We will try to do what we did to Walker -- make him take a lot of tough shots and put up a lot of shots to get his points."Additional Information:
No. 5 Pitt (13-1, 1-0 Big East) at Providence (11-4, 0-2)
7 p.m. today, Dunkin' Donuts Center, Providence, R.I.
TV/radio: FSN/KDKA-FM (93.7), Pitt Radio?Network
Favorite: Pitt by 6 1⁄2
Series: Pitt leads, 28-17
Outlook: Pitt has won nine of its past 10 meetings with Providence, but the Friars are a tough chore. Pitt lost at unranked Providence, 81-73, two years ago as the No. 1-ranked team in the nation and needed Ashton Gibbs' last-second 30-footer to escape with a 73-71 thriller over the Friars last season at The Pete. ... This is Pitt's first true road game of the season; the Panthers are the last Big East team to play on the road. ... The game is a homecoming for Pitt assistant coach Pat Skerry, who worked at Providence from 2008-10. ... Providence has lost 13 Big East games in a row, dating to last season. ... Gibbs scored 15 points in 14 minutes as a freshman in the upset loss at Providence, and he scored 25 points, matching his career high, in last season's buzzer-beater over the Friars. Gibbs is 10 for 15 from 3-point range against Providence. ... The Friars had one of the worst defenses in Big East history last season, allowing 85.3 points per game in conference games. But there's more emphasis on defense this season, as they are holding opponents to 68.9 points per game. ... Providence senior forward Marshon Brooks, the No. 2 scorer in the Big East, has scored 20 or more points in nine straight games, including 20 in a 67-65 loss to visiting St. John's on Saturday. ... Friars guard Vincent Council leads the Big East at 7.0 assists per game, and Bilal Dixon ranks second in the Big East in rebounding and blocked shots.
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