Likely due to a complete roster overhaul, only a sparse crowd came out Monday night to support Pittsburgh in its home opener against Montana, an 83-78 overtime setback. The Panthers started three freshmen in a game for the first time since 1977 and will likely do the same when they host UC Santa Barbara on Wednesday night.
With 11 new additions and only two returning players, the Panthers lost their season opener 71-62 at Navy and then had their 20-game home win streak snapped by the Grizzlies. In front of the smallest crowd in the history of the Petersen Events Center (3,102), Montana led throughout and its undersized frontline held a 39-38 rebounding edge and a 42-40 edge in points in the paint while snapping its 14-game losing streak to Power 5 teams. “I don’t think about (the fans support of the team). I support my team, I’m just worried about making my team better,” Pitt second-year coach Kevin Stallings told reporters after the Montana loss. “We have had to start over, so that’s a little bit of what we are dealing with. We have some good players who are going to grow into very good players. There are going to be some growing pains along the way.” UC Santa Barbara suffered through some growing pains last season, losing starters to both academics and injuries, leading to a 6-22 campaign and the departure of Bob Williams, the school’s all-time winningest coach, and the arrival of Joe Pasternack.
TV: 7 p.m. ET, ACC Network Extra
ABOUT UC SANTA BARBARA (1-0): Sophomore guard Max Heidegger scored a career-high 33 points and made a career-high eight 3-point baskets - one short of the school record - and Leland King II, a graduate transfer from Nevada, posted 23 points and nine rebounds in the Gauchos’ 85-66 victory over North Dakota State in the opener Saturday. Senior guard Gabe Vincent (14.8 points per game last season) returned from a torn ACL in his left knee, played 17 minutes and had a career-high eight assists to go along with seven points. Shooting was a big problem for the Gauchos last season, as they finished 350th of 351 teams in effective field-goal percentage (2-and 3-point field goal attempts) at 42.1 percent.
ABOUT PITTSBURGH (0-2): The Panthers have started five different freshmen in the first two games. Rookie Shamiel Stevenson, who did not start, led the way with 19 points, six rebounds and three assists against Montana while senior Ryan Luther finished with 18 points and 11 rebounds - seven offensive - for his second career double-double. Junior college transfer Jared Wilson-Frame started for the second straight game, scoring 15 points and grabbing four rebounds Monday.
1. Pitt is 233-42 all-time in the Petersen Events Center and 135-6 against non-conference opponents.
2. Pasternack, who was a student manager at Indiana under Bob Knight, coached New Orleans from 2007-11 (54-60) and had been an assistant at Arizona since.
3. UC Santa Barbara G Marcus Jackson, a grad transfer from Rice (1,000-point scorer in his career) is nursing an injured hip and missed the opener.
PREDICTION: UC Santa Barbara 77, Pittsburgh 70