Two of the highest-scoring teams in the Big East will meet Saturday when the fifth-ranked Panthers look for an 18th straight home victory.
Marquette (11-4, 2-0) and Pittsburgh (14-1, 2-0) rank second and third, respectively, in the conference in scoring offense and field goal percentage. The Golden Eagles are averaging 80.8 points and shooting 50.4 percent while the Panthers are at 80.7 points per game and 48.7 percent.
Last season, Marquette averaged 73.1 points and shot 45.6 percent while Pitt averaged 68.7 points and shot 44.6 percent.
The Panthers have connected on 52.5 percent in winning their first two Big East games, 78-63 over then-No. 4 Connecticut on Dec. 27 and 83-79 at Providence on Tuesday. The strong offensive play has been necessary since they have faced the top two scorers in the conference - the Huskies’ Kemba Walker and the Friars’ Marshon Brooks.
Walker scored 31 points and Brooks scored 28 in those games against the Panthers, who now have to face a player on the rise in the Golden Eagles’ Darius Johnson-Odom.
Johnson-Odom is averaging 19.8 points on 54.5 percent shooting over his last five games. He averaged 13.5 points on 38.3 percent shooting in Marquette’s first 10 games.
“I didn’t start off shooting the ball well at the beginning of our season but these last couple of games I’ve been shooting with a lot of confidence,” Johnson-Odom said. “My teammates have helped me because they have a lot of confidence in me knocking those shots down.”
Johnson-Odom matched a career high with 29 points and five 3-pointers in Wednesday’s 73-65 victory at Rutgers.
Coach Buzz Williams credited the junior guard’s improved defense in helping his shooting.
“In order for him to become elite, he’s going to have to guard their Darius (top scorer),” Williams said. “I think he’s really taking that as a challenge. It’s changed his lens on how he sees the game and it’s really helped our team.”
The Panthers used an 11-3 run over the final 90 seconds to earn Tuesday’s win. Gilbert Brown led Pitt with 19 points and Gary McGhee scored his 13 all in the second half.
“Coach (Jamie) Dixon called a timeout and said, ‘We’re going to pull this through,’” guard Travon Woodall said. “And we did that.”
Pitt overcome serious foul trouble, as Brad Wanamaker fouled out and three other Panthers finished with four fouls.
“I’ve never had all of those guys in foul trouble,” Dixon said. “Our strength in numbers really showed tonight. I couldn’t remember who fouled out and who didn’t foul out, we had so many fouls.”
Pitt shot 54.8 percent in last season’s 58-51 victory at Marquette, its third straight win in the series.
Marquette is one of nine visiting teams to win at the Petersen Events Center, where Pitt is 142-11 all-time. The Golden Eagles won 77-74 in overtime on Jan. 21, 2007, and lost their last visit, 90-75 on March 4, 2009.