Panthers open NIT Season Tip-Off with win against Fordham

With various NBA scouts watching him, center Steven Adams had his best game as a Pittsburgh Panther thus far in his early career. Adams had 13 points in an 86-51 victory over the Fordham Rams. J.J. Moore led the Panthers with 20 points.

“I’m excited about how we played,” Head Coach Jamie Dixon said. “24 assists and six turnovers, that’s what really stands out. I thought we defended well.

The Panthers started out quickly building a lead. They were led by senior guard Tray Woodall who provided an early spark, connecting on an early three and pacing an unselfish Panthers offense. The best example was when Woodall was on a fastbreak and likely had a lay-up but instead took the higher percentage play and allowed Lamar Patterson to take and make the lay-up.

Adams, when in the game provided a spark and inside presence for the Panthers. He was able to finish plays and frustrate the Fordham defense by splitting the defense, culminating in dunks.

At the half, the Panthers led 37-18. They outrebounded the Rams 20-13 and outscored them in points off turnovers 13-0. J.J. Moore paced the offense in the half, shooting 4-6 from the field and connecting on two of his three three point attempts.

The story was much of the same in the second half for the Panthers who kept their sizable lead. Durand Johnson, saw action in this game, and had the exclamation point with his slam dunk which electrified the fans. From there Moore nailed another three pointer and converted a two point shot while being fouled further pumping up himself as well as his teammates.

Moore is content with his role, a role that has changed as he is now more of a hybrid power forward. Dixon notes that this was the year Sam Young, who currently plays in the NBA made the switch to the four and how well that worked out. While that has not worked, games such as those pump up Moore and the team.

“I definitely like my role coming off the bench,” Moore said. “I feel like I give the team a lot of energy and help the team get good energy on D.”

Down the stretch, the Panthers continued their tenacity and widened their lead. Dante Taylor and Talib Zanna were able to rebound well together and tip the couple of missed free throws the Panthers missed. Trey Ziegler also was able to come in and pick up some points.

Another key for the Panthers was points in the paint which they won by 30, something noted by Fordham Head Coach Tom Pecora.

“It wasn’t a battle at all,” Pecora said. “We’re young, but I can’t use this as an excuse with these guys. They’ve got to learn how to be physical. That was not a battle, that was a whooping.”

The Panthers are now 2-0 on the season and will play the winner of the Robert Morris vs Lehigh game tomorrow night at 9 p.m.

Of Note:

The Panthers opponent tomorrow night ia Lehigh which defeated Robert Morris 89-60. Scouts who saw Adams also saw their star player, senior C.J. McCollum who had a game high 19 points in the win. The game between the two teams will start at 9 PM on ESPN-U.

My take:

The Panthers continued to impress. The play of Dante Taylor in this game concerned me. Taylor had two easy dunks with wide space between him, the hoop and the nearest defender, but he lost his balance and the team left three of four points on the floor, while the team won impressively once again, the fans notice when players make boneheaded plays such as that, especially if it is Taylor who fans often criticize anyways. J.J. Moore had himself a game and if he can become consistent, he can make an impact on any game. Tray Woodall’s leadership has already spread to James Robinson. It is clear that Robinson’s already high basketball IQ has increased and they play very well off of each other. As for C.J. McCollum, I sat courtside to watch him play and he is a very smart player. He made two mistakes by my count for the whole game but his minutes were down as Robert Morris did not provide much of a test. McCollum is the real deal.

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