PITTSBURGH – The Pitt Panthers men’s basketball team had its troubles from the 3-point line and with free throws, but had no troubles defeating Albany 58-46 on Saturday at Petersen Events Center.
Leading the way for Pitt was Cameron Wright who scored 14 points to go with seven rebounds and eight assists. Lamar Patterson also had 14 points including an early layup for his 1,000th career point. Talib Zanna had 10 points to go with nine rebounds.
“I thought our guys came out playing hard and did some good things,” Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said. “The shooting was not there for us today but we did do some things we wanted to do. We got our rebounding under control and… we took care of the ball until the end.”
Albany played to an early five-point lead. The Panthers did not connect from the 3-point line in the first half, going 0 for 7 and also going 0 for 6 from the free-throw line. Despite this, the teams went back and forth before Wright caught fire.
Wright had 10 points in the first half including eight straight that put the Panthers in lead and allowed Pitt to control the pace of the game.
At the half, Pitt led 28-18. The Panthers shot 45.2 percent from the field, outscored Albany 20-10 in the paint and had an 8-0 lead in second chance points.
“I was excited about playing because of how hard we practiced this week and the improvements we made,” Dixon said. “Some of it showed today, but not as much as I wanted.”
Pitt led by as many as 16, however Albany cut it thanks to D.J. Evans who was able to get to the free-throw line and the steady play of Sam Rowley whose left-handed hook provided problems for the Panthers. Evans led Albany with 18 points.
Still, the Panthers were able to overcome this and made 9 of 10 free throws in the second half to pull away.
“Coach Dixon is a good friend of mine,” Albany coach Will Brown said. “I didn’t think he was going to pull out his inner Jim Boeheim and go 2-3 zone against us. The zone bothered us in the first half, we got passive, we didn’t attack it.”
The Panthers will go into ACC play with a 12-1 record.
“It was good. We got a lot of good things out of it, but we also learned what we need to do to be a better team,” Pitt’s Patterson said. “I think the biggest one is rebounding and our defense. That is something we are going to continue to build off of as the season goes on. We finished 12-1, but should have finished 13-0. We know how to build now and work off previous games so we will be fine.”
The Panthers open conference play Saturday at North Carolina State. Tip-off is scheduled for noon.
With the conference schedule starting everyone has a prediction where Pitt will end up.
“You got North Carolina, Duke, Syracuse, and Pitt,” Brown said. Those are the four best teams in the ACC, in my opinion. I watch every league in the country at all hours and I drive my wife crazy with it. I’ve seen all these teams play.
“Pitt is never going to be out of a game because they defend and rebound. They should be undefeated. Pitt is a team that nobody is going to enjoy playing against.”
He said it: Cameron Wright on Patterson joining the 1,000 point club: “Everything he has accomplished he deserves it. He works so hard every day. That includes summer, whenever it counts. A lot of things go unnoticed. You see the game play for forty minutes but you don’t see the everyday grind, the lifting weights and running suicides on your own. That is what Lamar does and I am extremely proud of him. He deserves everything.”