As No. 20 Pittsburgh gets set to host the No. 25 Notre Dame Fighting Irish on Monday night, the Panthers will need to be active defensively in order to come out on top.
That should be no problem for the Panthers as they allow a conference-best 55.4 points per game. The Fighting Irish, though, average nearly 73 points per game, which puts them at fourth-best in the conference.
Both teams are coming off a loss, and the following are more specific keys to a Panther victory:
Steven Adams Needs to Win Battle with Jack Cooley
If Panthers center Steven Adams can win a battle in the post with Fighting Irish forward Jack Cooley, the Panthers will be in good shape.
This is not an easy test however, as Cooley is one of the best low-post players in the Big East. Cooley averages 14.6 points and 11.2 points per game.
He is the only player in the Big East who averages a double-double. The freshman Adams will have his hands full with the 6’9” and 246-pound Cooley.
In his own right, Adams is no slouch on the boards, pulling down a team-high 6.5 rebounds per game. He is also swatting 2.0 blocks per game as well.
The one area the 7’0” Adams will need to improve upon is his offensive game. He’s still a bit raw on the offensive side of the ball, and he’s only averaging 7.0 points per game. The main way he needs to contribute is his defensive pressure on Cooley, and that’s really the only thing he needs to do.
Tray Woodall Needs to Be Flawless
Panthers point guard Tray Woodall will need to have one of his better games in this contest.
He’s a very effective shooter, hitting 46.7 percent of his shots, including 37.7 percent from the three-point line.
Woodall is averaging team highs with 10.9 points and 5.5 assists per game. He also has a 2.6 assist/turnover ratio, which is third in the conference.
He is the main key to the game, in terms of spreading the ball around for Pittsburgh. Woodall needs to use his veteran leadership to be able to stay in control of Fighting Irish guards Eric Atkins and Jerian Grant on both sides of the ball.
Atkins and Grant are both averaging close to six assists per game. To be successful, Woodall needs to step up his defensive game and take away one of the guards.