The Pittsburgh Panthers men’s basketball team went back to their 10 man system, and had no trouble with the DePaul Blue Demons in a 93-55 win. The win moved the Panthers into sole possession of third place in a chaotic Big East Conference.
“We’re happy with our guys and how we kept coming at them,” Head Coach Jamie Dixon said. “Our strength is our 10 guys and we just kept coming at them with unselfishness. I think 23 assists really stands out. We were balanced and got good performance from a lot of different guys, and that’s what we’ve been doing all along.”
A balanced Panthers attack was led by Trey Ziegler who scored a season high 18 points. Nine Pitt players scored seven points or more, and Steven Adams nearly had a double double with his nine points and 12 rebounds.
It is clear though that Ziegler is much more comfortable than when he started this season.
“Definitely, the last couple of weeks I’ve found myself in the offense and I’m doing what Coach (Dixon) wants me to do,” Ziegler said. “It’s helped me play more. Being out there, I’ve been able to find my groove and just be myself a little bit more.”
It was an encouraging start to the game as the Panthers scored on their first two possessions and appeared to dictate the pace of play. Instead, DePaul went into the media timeout out with the lead as the Panthers hit a lull and also saw the Blue Demons take control as the Panthers made mistakes controlling the basketball.
Pitt was up to the challenge coming out of the media timeout as it was Durand Johnson who came up with a ferocious dunk that allowed the team to go on a 9-0 run. Ziegler also showed great effort when he was able to rebound a miss and tip it in despite a foul. A converted free throw made it a three point play.
The Panthers spent the first half crashing the boards and padding their lead, highlighted by an Adams made at the 10:22 mark of the first half. It was a mid range shot that floated and it was a three point play as DePaul fouled Adams.
Each of the 10 active Panthers would score in the first half and took a 53-30 lead after 20 minutes of game action. The Panthers shot 50% from the field and had an 18 point advantage in the paint, while their bench scored 33 points. All players besides J.J. Moore would have an assist and only Tray Woodall did not register a rebound in the half.
It was much of the same story to open the second half. While DePaul had scoring chances, they were unable to capitalize. Meanwhile the Panthers continued playing as a team and their unselfishness allowed them to force an early DePaul timeout.
The second half honestly was a matter of how much Pitt would win by. Their rebounding advantage was significant and led by Adams.
The Oakland Zoo got involved when Ziegler made another shot despite the harm. He high fived two Zoo members and the lead was 42 at that point.
“This is one that we would like to flush away and burn the tape,” DePaul Head Coach Oliver Purnell said.
There was a lot for Purnell to be upset about as the team was outrebounded by 24 and outscored in the paint by 24 points among other deficits.
“Pitt dominated our five guys,” Purnell said. “Our five guys didn’t have defensive rebounds in the first half. When they got going, they literally shot until they missed or when they made it. When you get outrebounded that badly, you don’t have much of a chance.”
The Panthers will travel to play a struggling Louisville team who since becoming number one in the country have dropped three straight games. The game will be played on Monday at 7 p.m. with ESPN televising the game.
DePaul plays a press, and despite an uncharacteristic 18 turnovers, the Panthers know the Cardinals press as well and while not the same, offered a preview of sorts.
“They wanted to speed us up, which they did,” Woodall said. “Throughout the whole game, we had 18 turnovers which is obviously uncharacteristic for us. It took time to get used to it, but we wanted to get lay-ups. Most teams that press give up lay-ups on the backside and want us to take jump shots. We took what they gave us and we took the open shots, which were lay-ups.”
Pitt is now 17-4 overall and 5-3 in the Big East.
This win is the biggest margin of victory over a Big East opponent.