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Oklahoma State vs Pittsburgh

Time: 02:30 P.M. EST

Pittsburgh showed it can play defense by opening December with a tight road victory, then came home and showed exactly what it's capable of offensively by nearly hitting triple digits.

As long as Jamie Dixon's team keeps rebounding so well, it might be able to win any way it wants.

The 15th-ranked Panthers bring a six-game winning streak and one of the nation's top rebounding margins into Madison Square Garden for Saturday afternoon's meeting with Oklahoma State in the CarQuest Auto Parts Basketball Classic.

Pitt's defensive prowess was in question after giving up 78 points in a tighter-than-expected win over woeful Rider on Nov. 13 before suffering a stunning 86-76 home loss to Long Beach State three days later.

The 49ers outrebounded the Panthers 29-26 to spring that upset, but Pitt (8-1) has recovered on the boards, edging its past three opponents by an average of 19.7. Seventeen offensive boards proved to be critical in last Saturday's 61-56 win at Tennessee, then the Panthers set a school record with 60 rebounds in Wednesday's 97-70 rout of VMI.

Pitt's 12.4 rebounding differential ranks among the top five in the nation.

"Those rebounds came from a variety of guys and I think our depth is helping us in that direction," said Dixon, who has five players averaging at least 4.5 boards. "We are becoming a very good rebounding team, but I don't think we're there yet."

If Nasir Robinson keeps hitting the boards like he has lately, Pitt should be there pretty soon. Robinson, who had surgery to repair a torn meniscus in October and has still felt lingering effects, has averaged 17.5 points and 13.0 rebounds the past two games to replace the scoring missed by injured guard Travon Woodall.

The Panthers are 18-0 when the senior grabs at least eight rebounds.

"I thought he really played unselfish," Dixon said. "He really can be a guy that does even more for us than he has in the past. We need to continue to work on that and develop that."

While Robinson and Ashton Gibbs are expected to carry the load offensively for Pitt, Oklahoma State (6-2) knows which player it would like to see develop into its go-to scorer.

Freshman Le'Bryan Nash experienced plenty of growing pains in his first seven games - which included a scoreless performance against Virginia Tech and seven turnovers in 16 minutes Sunday against NAIA team Langston - but he stepped up Wednesday at Missouri State.

With Oklahoma State down nine in the second half, Nash rattled off 12 of his team-high 19 points over a 12-minute stretch to lift the Cowboys to a 72-67 win.

Another big effort from Bryant would help Oklahoma State's cause Saturday, but coach Travis Ford's team doesn't figure to have a chance if it can't share the ball better.

While the Panthers are among the nation's leaders with 19.3 assists per game - they had 24 Wednesday without Woodall's 8.3 - the Cowboys average just 10.6, putting them among Division I's bottom 50 teams.

Point guard Keiton Page (12.0 points per game) has mostly looked to shoot thus far, but his team may be better served if he'd dish more often. Oklahoma State was 9-0 last season when it had at least 12 assists, and 11-14 when it had 11 or fewer.

Page had two assists and four fouls in 17 minutes when the Cowboys and Panthers last met, an 84-76 Pitt win in the second round of the 2009 NCAA tournament.

The Panthers outrebounded Oklahoma State 41-21.

Copyright 2015 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
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Oklahoma St.0-04-1109
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Wake Forest0-03-1105
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NC State0-02-2223

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