While the Pittsburgh Panthers could not get the West Virginia Mountaineers on the schedule this season, they did get the Mount St. Mary Mountaineers.
The Panthers played wonderfully to open the season and get the win by an 80-48 tally.
Talib Zanna scored 20 points on 10-12 shooting to lead the Panthers while Tray Woodall added 14 points.
“The guys did pretty good passing the ball,” Zanna said. “We just came out focused and ready to go.”
In the first half of the game, the Panthers seemed in control, however Mount St. Mary’s used their 3-point shooting to remain in the game. In fact Mount St. Mary’s missed their first 3-point shot with just under nine minutes in the first half.
Zanna was a force in the first half as the Panthers passed the ball to him in high-percentage situations and he scored 12 in the first half, while Woodall added 10 points.
The Panthers shot 75 percent as a team in the first half and eventually took a 42-27 lead at the half as Mount St. Mary’s cooled off from three and shot 36 percent during the game’s first 20 minutes.
The Panthers continued their teamwork in the second half, putting Mount St. Mary’s away. The Panthers defense, which often struggles to start the season, came to this game ready to play. They played efficiently in the second half and were able to create separation with their teamwork and defense.
The defense threw off Mountaineers head coach Jamion Christian who was coaching his first college game.
“When you look at Pitt defensively and you have two seven footers, the driving lanes aren’t there,” Christian said. “Sometimes when they aren’t there, it’s like smoke and mirrors. It looks like they aren’t there but then when you get there, it’s the boogeyman waiting for you.”
The Panthers shot 66.7 percent in the second half and 70.8 percent for the game, a school record.
The Panthers next play Monday at 6 p.m. against Fordham in the NIT Season Tip-off.
1. Cam Wright scored eight points in his 17 minutes of play. His father lost his battle to brain cancer earlier in the morning and Wright elected to play.
2. Chris Jones and Aron Nwankwo are expected to redshirt according to Pitt head coach Jamie Dixon.
3. Lamar Patterson was the only player of the nine Panthers who played who did not score a point.
4. Both John and Durand Johnson did not play tonight due to illness.
5. 8,928 fans attended the game. The Pitt women’s basketball game ended around 12:30 and upon leaving at 1:50 there was already a small line of Oakland Zoo fans. The Zoo had its usual seating, however it also filled up under both baskets.
In my opinion:
This is the most prepared the Panthers have been this season. There was no more of the “it’s too early” excuse. The defense was exceptional this early in the season forcing 16 turnovers. The Panthers had 13 assists against eight turnovers. They were unselfish. This was an important game for Trey Ziegler. He was a big disappointment in both exhibition games and in this game he had 11 points in 20 minutes. Dante Taylor got two fouls upon coming in the first half and that combined with Zanna having a solid game limited him. Pitt prepared for this game by studying the VCU Rams from last season and it paid off. Already Pitt has been called “The Boogeyman” and “Noah’s Ark,” and we are just one game into the regular season. If Pitt can put all of the pieces to the puzzle together, this team could be scary, and this city needs a winner.
1. This video features Tray Woodall, Talib Zanna and Cam Wright’s news conference following the game.
2. This second video provides my view of the tip-off and opening possession of the Panthers regular season. The mood was so festive that I even took a second to show my water bottle which was shaking: