After suffering their first loss of the season against Cincinnati, Pitt’s Lamar Patterson made sure it wouldn’t be two in a row for the Panthers.
Patterson scored a career-high 30 points, carrying the Panthers on his back for most of the afternoon as Pitt improved to 11-1 on the season with a 73-56 victory over Cal Poly Saturday afternoon at the Petersen Events Center.
“Good performance I thought,” said Pitt head coach Jamie Dixon. “We have to get better obviously, but it was nice to see some shots go down. We had too many breakdowns defensively though. It was a good comeback after a loss though.”
The Panthers had their hands full early on though.
The Mustangs, out of the Big West Conference, didn’t score their first point until five minutes into the contest, but thanks to a slow start offensively from the Panthers, trailed only 4-2 at the time.
Pitt made only four of their first 12 shot attempts and only led 8-6 before Patterson heated up.
The senior scored nine points on three consecutive trips down the floor, knocking down a pair of shots from behind the arc and converting a conventional three-point play as the Pitt went on a 14-2 run to extend their lead to 22-8.
“It felt good,” said Patterson. “I didn’t really know how many points I had, I just was shooting well and wanted to keep shooting. I just wanted to win. Everything was in the flow of the offense. The first one went down and I wanted to keep shooting.”
However the Mustangs didn’t show any quit as they responded with a 15-4 run of their own to close the half.
Cal Poly drained three consecutive three-point attempts- two from forward Chris Eversley- to close the gap and the Panthers couldn’t figure out the Mustangs’ zone defense at the other end, shooting only 35.5 percent from the floor, as Pitt only took a 28-23 lead at the half.
“We hung in there but we wore down mentally,” said Cal Poly head coach Joe Callero. “There was a span in the second half where I think they scored on six of eight possessions and that pretty much did us in. The physicality of the game wore on us both physically and mentally. You come out here and you don’t play boys’ basketball, you play men’s basketball and that’s what happened.”
The Panthers came out scorching hot in the second half though, making eight of their first 13 attempts, mostly due to Patterson. Every time the Mustangs got within one possession early in the half, Patterson had a big answer.
At one point the senior had scored 24 of Pitt’s first 45 points, including a back-to-back three-point plays to up Pitt’s lead to 45-34 and give the Panthers enough breathing room the rest of the way. On the afternoon, Patterson made 11-of-15 shots from the floor, both career highs, including 4-of-7 from behind the arc.
“We got a couple stops which energized us,” said Pitt point guard James Robinson. “We needed to pick our energy up. We got a big dunk from Josh (Newkirk) and that seemed to energize us and the crowd. And with the way Lamar was shooting, we just had to get him the ball.”
Patterson’s efforts marked the first time a Pitt player has scored 30 points in a game since Sam Young scored 32, March 22, 2009 against Oklahoma State. His 30 points left him just one shy of 1,000 points in his career.
“We have scorers,” said Patterson. “It’s all about trying to put together consistent performances. Tonight it was my night but we have a lot of guys who can step up and have big games. We just have to do it more consistently.”
In addition to Patterson’s big game, Durand Johnson also finished in double figures for the Panthers with 12.
The Mustangs were led in scoring by Eversley with 16.
Pitt will be back in action December 31 when they take on Albany at the Petersen Events Center.
“We have to make the decision to get Lamar more touches and more shots,” said Dixon. “We didn’t do that in the last game, but we have a lot of practice time coming up and that’s one of the things we will work on. We have to defend and rebound better but we have to recognize that Lamar needs more touches. We have the pieces, we just have to keep getting better.”