The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Sports

March 10, 2013

Pitt shoots school-record 72 percent at DePaul

CHICAGO — J.J. Moore’s teammates had a good feeling as they watched him warm up before Pittsburgh’s regular-season finale at DePaul.

Moore entered the game shooting only 29.7 percent on 3-point attempts this season, but the 6-foot-6 junior forward capitalized on his opportunities Saturday.

Moore hit a career-best five 3s and scored 21 points off the bench as the 20th-ranked Panthers shot a school-record 72 percent to beat DePaul 81-66 in their last Big East regular-season game.

“He’s been playing good defense for us all along,” Pittsburgh coach Jaime Dixon said. “If he makes shots, he makes us a really good team. He’s hard to guard.”

Pitt’s shooting performance was the best ever by a Big East team in conference play.

The next stop for surging Pittsburgh is its final Big East tournament, which begins Tuesday at Madison Square Garden in New York. The Panthers (24-7, 12-6), who will move into the Atlantic Coast Conference next season, are the No. 4 seed and receive a double-bye into Thursday’s quarterfinals.

Senior guard Tray Woodall added 18 points for Pitt, which has won 11 of its last 14 games and six of eight on the road.

While Moore knocked down perimeter shots, many of his teammates got to the rim at will against DePaul (11-20, 2-16). Twenty-two of Pittsburgh’s 46 first-half points came on dunks or layups.

A pumped-up Moore was too exuberant after one of his second-half 3s and received a technical foul.

“(The ref) said I did a little too much,” Moore said. “I’ll just try to keep it down a little more. Try for more composure and keep my head. But it was a good game, it was a tough game.

“My teammates looked for me today. I’m just thankful to have good teammates.”

Despite the Blue Demons shooting 50 percent from the field in the first half, Pittsburgh led by 11 points at halftime thanks to its own sharp shooting. The Panthers finished 33 for 46 (71.7 percent), surpassing their previous best of 70.8 percent against Mount St. Mary’s in their season opener. Moore went 8-for-8 from the field and tied his career high for points.

DePaul had four players in double figures, led by Brandon Young’s 22 points. With his two 3s, the junior guard became the first DePaul player with at least 1,200 points, 400 assists and 100 3-pointers.

Senior guard Worrel Clahar tied his career high with 19 points.

“Worrel played one of his best games for us,” DePaul coach Oliver Purnell said. “He was tenacious and tough out there.”

The Blue Demons head to New York as the bottom seed (No. 14) in the Big East tournament and face 11th-seeded Rutgers on Tuesday night. After the team’s sixth straight loss, DePaul Athletic Director Jean Lenti Ponsetto said Purnell is not in jeopardy of losing his job.

“We don’t have any intentions of doing anything differently with Coach Purnell at this point in time,” Ponsetto said. “We knew when we brought him here, and the reason we gave him a seven-year contract, is that we knew he had a major rebuilding project and I think we’ve done some things to put an infrastructure in place to give him all the tools he needed to be successful.”

Pittsburgh took control from the opening tip, jumping out to a 9-0 lead as Woodall and freshman center Steven Adams combined for nine points in the first 3 minutes. DePaul missed its first four shots, but Charles McKinney’s 3-pointer at the 16:49 mark finally got the Blue Demons on the scoreboard.

DePaul’s full-court, man-to-man press helped the Blue Demons get back in the game early on. Cleveland Melvin’s dunk punctuated a 13-2 run and gave them their only lead, 13-11.

Pittsburgh overwhelmed DePaul in the paint, scoring 38 points, and mixed up its defenses, switching between man-to-man and a 2-3 zone, which gave the Blue Demons trouble.

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