PITTSBURGH—The Panthers (7-1) trailed visiting Detroit (2-4) by eight points at halftime, but stormed out of the locker room on fire after the break and pulled away from the Titans for a 74-61 win at the Petersen Events Center Saturday night.
“We did a good job against a very good team,” Pitt head coach Jamie Dixon said. “We did a better job in the second half. Why we didn’t play better in the first half? I don’t know.”
The Panthers were stymied by Detroit’s 2-3 zone in the first half. They were not able to penetrate middle or shoot over it from the outside. They also got out-rebounded in the first half 17-15.
On offense, the Titans used their smothering zone to spark their offense in the first half. Detroit point guard Ray McCallum (NBA prospect) scored 17 points and Jason Calliste scored 10.
“We didn’t play well to start the game. Our big guys struggled a little bit against the zone,” Dixon said. “Their point guard [Mccallum] is as good as anyone in the country.”
The second half was a different story. Pitt was able to penetrate the middle and shoot over the top of the Titan’s Zone. The Panthers also did a better job in stopping Detroit’s shooters as McCallum only had 7 points after the break (24 overall) and Calliste had 2 points after the break (12 overall).
“We attacked the zone better in the second half and bad better penetration off our ball screens,” Dixon said. “In the first half we got out-scored by 8 points. In the second half, we outscored them by 21. I guess it’s better to do it in the second half.”
After limping into the locker room at the break down 37-29, both the Panthers and the Titans looked like different teams after the break. Pitt tore off an 8-0 run to start the second half and the defense held Detroit without a point until over six minutes into the half.
The Titans went ahead 41-39 lead with 12:24 left in the game but it was the last time they would lead. Pitt took a double-digit lead for the first time with four minutes left when Talib Zanna scored on a dunk and hit the free throw on the foul shot to give Pitt a 63-51 lead.
Zanna led four Panthers scored in double figures with 16. Tray Woodall added 14, Lamar Patterson added 12, and James Robinson scored 11 and dished six assists.
“We stayed with the same game plan, we got the defense moving in the second half,’ Robinson said. “We attacked the gaps better and swung the ball faster.”
Woodall had 11 in the first half and helped keep Pitt within striking distance when his teammates were struggling from the floor.
“In the first half, I tried to pick up the team and be aggressive,” Woodall said. “We tried to come out with a little more intensity on defense and be more aware of where their shooters were in the second half.”
Detroit head coach Ray McCallum credited Pitt for wearing down his team in the second half.
“It was very important that we get off to a great but as the game went on in the second half, we started to get hurt inside with their size, then they had a scratch with the 3-point shot came alive for them,” McCallum said. “We knew they were going to make a run. Their size and strength wore us down.”
Next up is the City Game on Wednesday night as Pitt hosts Duquesne at the Consol Energy Center.
"I think the game is a great tradition and great for the city," Dixon said. "We had 16,000 last year. That says it all. Maybe with no hockey, even more fans will come out."