The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Sports

November 27, 2012

Patterson leads Pitt past Howard

PITTSBURGH — Jamie Dixon believes Pittsburgh can be a good 3-point shooting team. He’d just prefer the Panthers become a good rebounding team first.

It appears Dixon will have to wait.

While Pitt surged to a relatively easy 70-46 win over Howard on Tuesday night, it was another number in the box score – the slight 37-36 rebounding advantage by the undersized and undermanned Bison – that piqued Dixon’s interest.

“We’ve been outrebounded three games in a row,” Dixon said. “It’s something we need to address. We spent two days addressing it, but it’s just not getting done. It’s something we’ve got to get better at. There are too many that are hitting our hands that we’re not getting.”

Still, the Panthers (6-1) managed to track down enough to prevent Howard (1-6) from making things uncomfortable. Pitt led by just eight at the break but broke things open with an 11-3 surge to start the second half as the Panthers finally figured out the myriad of zone defenses the Bison threw at them.

“We wanted to control the paint and in the zone, make them think a little bit,” Howard coach Kevin Nickelberry said.

Nickelberry’s team succeeded on that front but simply couldn’t keep up when Pitt got serious in the second half. Howard shot just 31 percent (8 of 26) over the final 20 minutes as the Panthers started a soft spot in their schedule with relative ease.

Lamar Patterson and Tray Woodall scored 15 points each for Pitt while Talib Zanna added 12 points and eight rebounds and freshman point guard James Robinson scored 11 points and eight assists.

The Panthers outscored Howard 10-1 at the free-throw line and 14-8 on fast breaks while making 8 of 19 3-pointers. The Bison went just 1 of 10 behind the arc.

“I feel like they were tiring in the second half,” Zanna said. “We just started running and got the lead.”

Simuel Frazier led Howard with 12 points and Mike Phillips and Alphonse Leary scored 10 points each for the Bison but Howard’s injury-depleted line-up had no answer when Pitt finally got aggressive.

“They made more shots, we couldn’t make a shots,” Nickelberry said. “It’s a good experience for us. This has always been a tough place to play.”

At the moment, however, it’s not a tough place to rebound.

Despite giving up size at just about every position, the Bison held their own on the glass and actually edged Pitt 34-32 on points in the paint. It’s not exactly the way Dixon wanted to start what amounts to a five-week homestand in which the Panthers don’t leave the city limits.

“We’ve got to get more putbacks against the zone,” Dixon said. “It sounds like it happens by accident ... it’s by design, it’s by execution.”

Something the Panthers lacked in the first half as Howard’s zones made any foray into the lane a dicey proposition.

Despite having a short bench and a busy travel schedule that sent the Washington, D.C., school to Iowa, Kansas and Mexico during the season’s first two weeks, the Bison hung around in the first half.

Looking like the fresher, more engaged team for long stretches, Howard beat Pitt to loose balls, outrebounded the Panthers by one (16-15) and stayed patient offensively.

The Panthers, meanwhile, struggled to get anything going outside of Patterson’s hot shooting. Dante Taylor and freshman center Steven Adams were ineffective and rhythm of any variety was difficult to come by.

Pitt still managed a 36-28 lead at the break thanks mainly to Patterson. The forward came in shooting 24 percent (4 of 17) from 3-point range this season but knocked down his first four triples.

Considered the team’s most versatile player – and arguably its most important behind Woodall – Patterson didn’t panic after getting off to a slow start. Neither did Dixon, who knows if Patterson can get his shot going he’ll be one of the best all-around players in the Big East.

“He was practicing real well and had some games had some big leads,” Dixon said. “He’s really playing well. His defense is much improved from last year. He’s doing some good things.”

Patterson didn’t spent extra hours in the gym hoping to correct his shot. He knew he was getting good looks, it was just a matter of making sure they went down.

“I ain’t really change anything,” Patterson said. “Just what, 4 for 17? That’s not like me. I made five today, it was a little different and it felt good.”

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