Pitt men’s basketball is back home Saturday afternoon for the fourth-of-five home games to start the 2021-22 season.
The Panthers ended a two game losing streak against The Citadel and West Virginia to beat UNC Wilmington and Towson, but struggled down the stretch against a strong defensive Vanderbilt team losing 68-52.
Here are five things to know ahead of Pitt’s (2-3) matchup against the University of Maryland-Baltimore County Retrievers (3-2).
Serious in Santos
Forward Nate Santos has started to prove himself as a solid player on a team full of guys searching for an identity.
The freshman recorded team-highs in minutes (34) and rebounds (6), tied with Mouhamadou Gueye, against the Commodores. Pitt faces an action-packed non-conference slate that will create a larger sample size for the Panthers team identity this year.
Santos has started all five games averaging just over eight points-per-game and five rebounds. The 6’7” forward displays the potential of being an impact player with increased time and development.
Pace to a New Place
One thing hampering the Panthers is the pace they’re playing to start the year. Averaging 64.5 points-per-game, Pitt ranks tied for 332nd in points compared to the Retrievers’ 71 points in the top 115 in the country.
UMBC also has the ability to knock down the long ball that Pitt significantly lacks. The absence of impact guards, due in part to Nike Sibande’s season-ending injury and Ithiel Horton’s suspension, has left the Panthers to play a slower game with less proven shooters.
Daniel Oladapo and Jamarius Burton are major factors in the backcourt to create stability. This Panther team lacks the pure scorers and talented guards as years past, and it could factor in against an offensive UMBC team who can hit shots from behind the arc.
The Retriever Report
UMBC is best remembered for being the first ever No. 16 seed to knock off a No. 1 seed, defeating Virginia 74-54 in the 2018 NCAA Tournament.
The Retrievers start the year 3-2 and have lost both games played on the road. The team lost to UMASS in the season opener, won their next two against Penn State York and Western Carolina, losing to Longwood the next game, before beating American on Tuesday.
UMBC is the third best rebounding team in the country at 85.5% and takes care of the ball. The Panthers significantly out-rebound the Retrievers statistically, but are about even in total rebounds. The key for UMBC is taking an early lead and never looking back, relying on its strength at the free-throw line to seal the game and win its first road game.
Keondre Kennedy leads the Retrievers with 14.6 points-per-game and a 56% field-goal rate. Darnell Rogers is second behind Kennedy averaging 13 points.
Pitt is favored by 6.0 points in Saturday morning’s latest odds from Caesars Sportsbook.
Pitt ended last season 11-10-1 against the spread and 5-3 on the road. The Panthers are 2-3 against the spread, and record wise, early on this year.
The over/under for the Panthers’ fourth home game is set at 132.5 points.
UMBC finished 11-10 against the spread last season.
Broadcast, Radio Info
The UMBC and Pitt matchup will air on ACC Network Extra Saturday afternoon beginning at 2 p.m.
The game can also be heard live on sports radio 93.7 The Fan.
Pitt hosts undefeated Minnesota out of the Big Ten Tuesday at 7 p.m. and will air on ESPNU and 93.7 The Fan.