PITTSBURGH—Pitt’s pattern this year has been to play better in the second half than the first. On Saturday night, the Panthers (9-1) not only continued that trend, but exploded in the second half and blew North Florida (3-6) out of the Petersen Event Center 89-47, the biggest margin of victory this year.
Tray Woodall drives on a North Florida defender
“They took advantage of us early. They’re scrappy,” Pitt head coach Jamie Dixon said. “We kept battling and fighting.”
The Ospreys tied the game 27-27 with less than six minutes left in the first half fueled by made three point shots, but it served as a wake-up call for the Panthers, unfortunately for North Florida head coach Matt Driscoll, a Pittsburgh native.
“It’s obviously always a pleasure to come back to Pittsburgh where my roots are, but when it was 27-2, I thought we were capable (of competing). This was embarrassing,” Driscoll said. “It’s impressive the way [Pitt] really shares the sugar. You can drive in our league, but not against these cats.”
Pitt opened up a 41-30 lead at the break, then ran away with the game in the second half. Five Panthers scored in double figures led by Dante Taylor with 16.
“We tried to get great shots every time, not just good ones,” Taylor said. “We were disappointed in our rebounding in the first half.”
Pitt was out-rebounded 14-12 in the first half but ruled the boards in the second half and finished the game with a 35-21 rebounding advantage including 13 offensive rebounds.
“They came out making shots. You can’t be much more efficient than we were on offense,” Dixon said. “We wore them down. They played a number of tough teams on the road and we have a lot of depth.”
Other double-figure scorers included Tray Woodall with 14, Lamar Patterson with 13, Talib Zanna with 15, and Cam Wright with 10.
“We can start games better. We come out in the second half and play so well,” Wright said. “We just have lapses in the first half. We definitely need to pick it up in the first half.”
North Florida did not shoot a free throw. It was a first for the Jamie Dixon era.
The previous record was in 2003 (Dixon’s first year) when Albany only shot one free throw. The Ospreys were led by Travis Wallace and David Jeune who scored 10 points each.
Pitt now continues its non-conference schedule and plays Bethune-Cookman next Saturday at 7 p.m.