PITTSBURGH—The new up-tempo style is alive and well at the Petersen Events Center as Pitt handily won its season-opener 80-48 against visiting Mount St. Mary’s early Friday night in front of 8,928. The Panthers set a school record 71 percent in field goal shooting percentage for the game.
Tray Woodall drives against a Mount St. Mary's defender
“For our first game, I thought we did some very good things,” Dixon said. “Our energy was terrific and I thought we played unselfish.”
The Panthers (1-0) scored 24 points off turnovers and 20 points off fast breaks against the smaller Mount St. Mary’s (0-1) team. Tray Woodall credited Pitt’s front court players being able to run the floor as an asset in the Panthers’ fast break attack.
Woodall scored 14 points, dished six assists, committed three turnovers, and had one steal.
“It’s great, a lot of times our big men were out in front of the guards, we want to reward our big men for running the floor, its making our job a lot easier,” Woodall said. “We wanted to keep their guys in front of us when we pressured them. We forced 16 turnovers so that’s pretty good.”
The Mount shot lights-out halfway through the first half and shot 7 for 9 from three-point range and trailed only 28-23 with less than eight minutes left in the first half.
Dixon called timeout to make defensive adjustments and it worked as Mount St. Mary’s then missed its next seven attempts from beyond the arc. Pitt led 42-27 at the break.
“They were making tough shots. I don’t thing we did anything different per se, but we tried to do a better job at what we wanted to do,” Dixon said. “I told our players [during the timeout] that the ball pressure needs to get better. Hopefully we learned as the game went on, so we didn’t really make adjustments on our end but had better recognition on what they were trying to do.”
Talib Zanna paced the Panthers with a career-high 20 points. He also pulled down two rebounds, had one block, and two steals. Trey Zeigler also scored in double figures off the bench with eleven points.
“The guys did a good job passing me the ball,” Zanna said. “We just came out focused and made shots.”
Freshman point guard James Robinson started at shooting guard where he played in the two exhibition games. The Panthers played nine men with John Johnson and Durand Johnson sitting out the game due to illness.
Dixon credited the Panthers in making good decisions and breaking the full court press that the Mount threw at them for most of the game.
“It’s hard to play against a full court pressure anytime, especially the first game. We practiced awhile on it,” Dixon said. “The best thing we did was make good decisions on the back end. We had good shot selection, we didn’t settle for 3’s, we made simple plays, and attacked when it was there.”
Mount St. Mary’s was led by Xavier Owens who scored 15 points. First year head coach Jamion Christian credit Pitt’s taller front court players with intimidating his smaller guards when they tried to drive to the basket.
“They’re so big inside, it looks like you have an opening, but when you turn around, the boogie man is there,” Christian said. “[Talib] Zanna looks unbelievable and [Steven] Adams has good hands and feet. It’s tough when you’re 6-2 or 6-3 and you’re driving on a 7-footer.”
Adams led the Panthers in rebounding with eight boards. He also blocked four shots, had two assists and one steal.
Pitt returns to the court Monday night by hosting Fordham at the Petersen Events Center at 6 p.m. The early tip-off is to accommodate fans who want to watch or go to the Steeler game, which is at Heinz Field at 8:30 Monday night.