Since the Big East Conference season began for the Pitt Panthers’ basketball team, it has been one nail biter after another for the Panthers.
With that being said, Jamie Dixon’s squad needed a cakewalk for a change and they got one in the form of the DePaul Blue Demons Saturday afternoon at the Petersen Events Center.
Everything went Pitt’s way from the opening tip as the Panthers cruised to a 93-55 victory, setting a school record for largest Big East Conference victory in program history, breaking the former mark of 36, set in 2003 with an 82-46 victory over West Virginia.
It was a total team effort for Pitt (17-4, 5-3) as all 10 Panthers players scored, grabbed at least one rebound and dished out at least one assist.
“Our strength is our 10 guys,” said Dixon. “I was happy with the way we kept coming at them and everyone was unselfish as usual. You rarely have a game like this in this conference. It just doesn’t happen.”
On the day Pitt shot close to 50 percent from the floor, 36 percent from behind the arc and 75 percent from the charity stripe. But they won big mostly because the limited the Blue Demons to only 27.7 percent from the floor for the game.
The Panthers’ bench was so good on the day, that they outscored the starters 52-41 and nearly outscored the DePaul team. The Panthers reserves were led by Trey Zeigler, who had a game-high 18 and J.J. Moore added 10.
But the contributions were not limited to just them.
Cameron Wright scored eight, Durand Johnson had seven and Dante Taylor added nine points, eight rebounds and two blocks.
“We just come in and do our thing,” said Zeigler. “We know that we have 10 guys that can step up on any given night. We just have to keep doing what we have been doing lately.”
But it wasn’t just the Pitt offense as the Panthers defense had a great day, forcing 18 turnovers, recording nine steals and blocking nine shots.
But while they were making plays on the defensive end, they were making the Blue Demons take contested shots all game long. DePaul’s top two scorers- Cleveland Melvin and Brandon Young- combined to go only 6-for-30 from the floor and score just 20 combined points.
Much of the credit for that goes to Pitt freshman guard James Robinson, who continues to shine at the defensive end of the floor, drawing the assignment on Young all game.
Robinson scored only one point on the night, but was much more valuable than that.
“James was one of the best players on the floor,” said Pitt point guard Tray Woodall, who finished with eight points and eight assists. “I say it all the time that the things he does for us don’t show up on the stat sheet. He draws the other team’s best player every game and just does what it takes to win.”
A big reason why the Pitt defense was so good was the fact that they dominated the glass.
When Pitt outrebounds the opposition, they win games and today was no exception as the Panthers had a dominating rebounding performance, outrebounding the Blue Demons 58-34, led by a career-high 14 from freshman Steven Adams.
DePaul (10-9, 1-5) kept it close for only a few minutes early on as their press was able to force the Panthers into several early turnovers, but a 19-7 Pitt run in between media timeouts put the game away early.
“Pitt was really good and we were awful,” said DePaul head coach Oliver Purnell. “This is one tape you just want to burn. We had a good gameplan coming in but our bad offense made it easy for them to do whatever they wanted all game.”
After a 1-3 start in conference play, the Panthers have rebounded very nicely and now hold sole possession of third place in the Big East with games against Louisville and Syracuse coming up.
“We are just getting better as a team,” said Woodall. “We have 10 guys that contribute and we get contributions from one through 10. We are playing well right now and just have to focus on the task at hand.”
Photo Credit: Associated Press