The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Sports

December 9, 2012

Pitt wears down visiting North Florida

PITTSBURGH — Tray Woodall scored 14 points and tied a season-high with nine assists, and Pittsburgh pulled away in the second half of an 89-47 win over North Florida on Saturday night.

Dante Taylor led Pitt with 16 points and Talib Zanna added 15 as the Panthers (9-1) wore the Ospreys down with their size. Lamar Patterson scored 13 points and Cameron Wright had 10 points off the bench as Pitt won its fifth straight.

The Ospreys, giving away height at every position, settled for jumpers, one of the reasons they never made it to the free-throw line all night.

The Panthers shot a season-high 59 percent (33 of 58) from the field and dominated the final 25 minutes after getting serious on defense.

Travis Wallace and David Jeune scored 10 points each for North Florida (3-6), but the Ospreys didn’t have enough firepower. North Florida scored just 20 points over the game’s final 25 minutes after briefly tying it at 27 in the first half.

The game was a homecoming for North Florida coach Matthew Driscoll, a Pittsburgh native. Maybe that was why the Ospreys looked so comfortable in the Petersen Events Center during a back-and-forth first half in which they had an answer every time Pitt made a move.

The Panthers led by 11 points early, but North Florida responded behind a flurry of 3-pointers to tie it at 27. The Ospreys struggled whenever Pitt was able to get its defense set, so they looked for quick shots to catch the Panthers flat-footed.

Maybe Pitt was distracted by the presence of football coach Paul Chryst, who took in the game from behind one of the baskets along with a handful of recruits. Chryst received a standing ovation when he was introduced to the crowd, a salute that was likely more out of loyalty than the team’s 6-6 record.

There was speculation earlier in the week that Wisconsin might try to lure Chryst back to take over for departed coach Bret Bielema. Instead, Chryst is sticking at Pitt, a rare respite for a football program that’s seen more than its fair share of coaching turmoil the past two years.

There are no such problems on the basketball side of things, though coach Jamie Dixon had several of his players on the move in the first half trying to find a combination that was interested in guarding the Ospreys. He found one in the final minutes, and Pitt closed the half on a 14-3 burst led by Woodall and defensive specialist Cam Wright to give the Panthers a little breathing room.

It would grow quickly in the second half. Freshman center Steven Adams got the Panthers going with a spectacular alley-oop, and Pitt wasted little time opening up a 20-point lead and cruised.

The huge advantage allowed Dixon to experiment and let Taylor show signs of life. The senior center has turned into a role player of sorts while serving as a backup to Adams. Yet he played with confidence after an early dunk, and his 16 points were six more than he scored in his previous five games combined.

 

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