Despite not having Talib Zanna in the lineup, the Pittsburgh Panthers trounced Savannah State 88-55 in its season opener Friday night at the Peterson Events Center.
“They have got to learn from their mistakes, which there were plenty of them tonight, but we’ve got to get better for it,” Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said. “We are really unselfish…last game we talked about playing more patient defensively.
“This time our emphasis was rebounding and obviously we did a better job in that area. We seem to have addressed the things that we need to work on, but there is always room for improvement.”
Derrick Randall got the start and rewarded Dixon with a double-double – 12 points and 12 rebounds. Randall’s hopes for the game were to “go out, give it (his) all and do everything right.”
“It was more about just proving to everybody that I can play,” Randall said. “Just being there for my teammates and just doing hustle plays and just doing defense.”
Six Panthers scored in double figures, led by James Robinson’s 13 points and five rebounds. Savannah State had two scorers reach double figures as Alante Fenner’s 11 points took top honors. The Panthers defense forced 17 turnovers and had a 47-28 rebounding advantage.
In the first half, the Panthers moved the ball at will while allowing their opponents to make just four shots from the field – a 17.4 percent clip. Pitt shot 55.6 percent from the field en route to a 40-13 lead at the half.
Savannah State improved its shooting in the second half to 39 percent, but Pitt still outscored them 48-42 in the final 20 minutes.
“We came out slow, sluggish and nervous,” Savannah State coach Horace Broadnax said. “I think in the second half we got it going a little bit. We’ve got a lot of young guys, and our objective is to be successful in our conference.
“I think we got some things accomplished, but overall, Pittsburgh is pretty good, physical and strong. They’ve got a lot of guys the same size that can switch and they’re huge. They’re big. Scoring on their part was very well balanced, so that’s a good thing for them in the ACC.”
A point of emphasis for the Panthers may be turnovers as they committed 16.
“We had a lot of turnovers but it was the first game,” Lamar Patterson said. “Guys were losing focus a bit, but we were making a lot of great decisions.”
Zanna was suspended for a violation of team rules, however he will return in the next game. Aron Nwankwo also did not dress due to a family illness.
The Panthers will next play Tuesday at home against Fresno State. The tip is scheduled for 7 p.m.
Of note: Josh Ko, a walk-on from Hawaii came into the game late and scored four points. All dressed players other than Chris Jones and Mike Lecak scored.