Not accustomed to playing with leads, Pittsburgh nearly squandered a 22-point halftime advantage last time out against Delaware State. Playing without leader Ryan Luther again for a second straight contest, Friday at home against a formidable Towson team in the final non-conference tune-up, Panthers coach Kevin Stallings will see if his team learned any valuable lessons from Tuesday.
Pitt led by as many as 27 in the first half but saw its lead trimmed to two with 22.1 seconds left before Jonathan Milligan - the only other senior on the team who plays besides Luther - drained two free throws to preserve the victory. “Every game is a learning situation for us, and this is the first time these guys have had a big lead. It took us four or five games in the season to even have a lead at halftime,” Stallings explained afterward. “Our team is not such that we can take our foot off the gas pedal. That’s not who we are. There is no team in college basketball that we can do that with. It’s nice to have a lead and blitz a team in the first half, and if we are lucky to have it again, maybe we will do a better job next time.” Milligan and Jared Wilson-Frame finished with 13 points apiece, while freshman Khameron Davis scored 10.
TV: 7 p.m. ET, ACC Network Extra
ABOUT TOWSON (10-2): Coming back from an 11-day break for finals, Zane Martin scored 22 points in the loss at Oakland to lead the team in scoring for a sixth consecutive game, while Jordan McNeil finished with a career-high 18 on 7-of-7 shooting and Mike Morsell tallied 17 points and four 3-pointers. Martin, a 6-4, 205-pound sophomore guard, leads the team at 18.2 points per game, is shooting 40.4 percent beyond the arc and has improved greatly upon his turnover rate from his freshman season when he averaged 5.5 points in 14 minutes. Senior guard Morsell’s scoring average of 13.2 points is nearly identical to his output from 2016-17, but he’s improved his 3-point shooting from 33.3 to 37.3 percent. The Tigers are shooting 47.2 percent from the floor overall, including 40.3 from beyond the arc after shooting 31.1 a season ago.
ABOUT PITTSBURGH (7-5): Luther (12.7 points, 10.1 rebounds), one of only three players in the ACC averaging a double-double, is expected to miss at least the opening week of conference play against Miami (Fla.) and Louisville. Without his presence, the Panthers were outrebounded 37-27 by Delaware State and outscored in the paint 20-14. Junior wing Wilson-Frame leads the team in scoring (13.1) and 3-pointers (27), while freshman guard Marcus Carr contributes 12.2 points on 50 percent shooting from the floor and 90 percent from the line to go along with a team-best 3.9 assists.
1. Among ACC freshman guards with 200 minutes played, Davis ranks first in effective field-goal percentage (combined 2- and 3-point field goal attempts) at 70.5 percent. Carr ranks fourth at 59.8.
2. Pat Skerry, whose Tigers are ranked fourth in the Collegeinsider.com mid-major top-25, was named the CAA Coach of the Year following the 2012-13 season after leading Towson to the greatest single-season turnaround in Division I history (from 1-31 to 18-13).
3. The Tigers’ 10-game winning streak was the third-longest in school history, behind a 23-game run in 1976-77 and a 17-gamer the following season.
PREDICTION: Pittsburgh 73, Towson 68