PITTSBURGH—J.J. Moore continues to shine off the bench as he scored 20 points in Pitt’s 86-51 win over Fordham (0-2) in the first round of the NIT Tournament Monday night at the Petersen Events Center.
Tray Woodall drives on Fordham's Jermaine Myers
“I definitely like my role coming off the bench. I feel like I give the team a lot of energy coming off the bench. I think it is helping us on the court,” Moore said. “I have a lot of thinking about to do on the court at a lot of times in the game. I try to get a better shot than a contested shot.”
Pitt head coach Jamie Dixon feels Moore is understanding his role and starting to excel in the Panther offense.
“I told [Moore] in the off season this is where [former Panther] Sam [Young] had his breakout year, his junior year. And he had that same change where he went from the 4 to the 3,” Dixon said. “I think we really have something there that we can really cause some problems with. I really think his confidence is soaring because of it. It is just like how it went with Sam [Young].”
The Panthers (2-0) jumped out to a 10-5 lead in the first five minutes and never looked back. They led 37-18 at the break.
Steven Adams scored 13 points on 5-for-5 shooting from the floor and pulled down five rebounds. Dante Taylor led Pitt on the boards with nine rebounds.
“I feel pretty comfortable. I know the plays. I would say I’m getting it,” Adams said. “They did a good job [passing him the ball], that is how I got my points.”
Tray Woodall added 12 points and dished five assists and had two steals with no turnovers.
“We don’t have a (turnover) goal that we’re looking for but the guards want to get up and pressure more,” Woodall said. “We just want to pressure the ball and force more turnovers.”
The Panthers continued their formula for success so far this year with a pressure defense. They forced 11 steals and outscored the Rams on points off turnovers 28-4. Pitt also continued to play ball control and had 24 assists on 34 field goals.
“We have good passers, good decision makers and unselfish players,” Dixon said. “I think we have more length, quickness and athleticism. We’re understanding assignments relatively good at this early time in the season. Last game we didn’t finish in transition percentage wise, but today was much better.”
Lamar Patterson led Pitt in assists with six. He also scored five points, pulled down four rebounds and had two steals.
“Lamar played really well. I thought he was the key of the game early,” Dixon said. “He played good defense, he had six assists, we just got good play.”
The Panthers played ten players overall.
“It’s a young group and what is exciting is we can do some things and improve,” Dixon said. “I think it can really develop into a nice group.”
Pitt will now play Lehigh tomorrow at the Petersen Events Center. Lehigh beat Robert Morris 89-60 to advance. The winner advances to the NIT Semifinals at Madison Square Garden in New York City next week.
“It’s still early and we have a tough game tomorrow,” Dixon said. “We have a lot of work to do in 24 hours.”
NOTES: Guard John Johnson has left the team and will look to transfer. The arrival of James Robinson had cut down the number of minutes Johnson was getting on the floor. Dixon addressed the matter after the game.
“We wish [John Johnson] the best,” Dixon said. “We’ve discussed some things and we’re really going to help him find the right place.”
Woodall felt Johnson was not as comfortable this year.
“Honestly, I have seen a lot of things. I knew that Pitt isn’t for everybody, not necessarily in a negative way,” Woodall said. “Some guys just aren’t as comfortable here as years go by.”