I mentioned this over at the SB Nation Pittsburgh recap, but it was the theme of the game and hard to ignore. Usually when you mention free throws and Pitt in the same sentence, it's a bad thing for the Panthers.
Not so on Sunday.
Pitt was 27-31 from the line (that comes out to 87% if you don't have an abacus handy). I'm hard pressed to remember a game when Pitt shot so effectively from the stripe with that many attempts. It has happened before, right? Regardless, the 27 points at the line accounted for more than 1/3 of Pitt's 79 points and without them, the outcome might have come out a bit differently.
Leading the way for Pitt was Ashton Gibbs and Tray Woodall with 54 points. Seriously, this is one of the best backcourts in the country when they're playing well. The funny thing about Woodall is that we were all concerned how well he might play in his first year as a starter. The common theory was that if he merely ran the offense efficiently, as Pitt fans, we'd take that. Not only is he doing that, he's turned into a big-time scorer.
Other than free throws, Pitt's defense was also stellar.
The defense played really well, harassing Nova into a lot of poor shooting. The Wildcats were held to below 36% from the field an Maalik Wayns was particularly bad, making only seven of his 22 shots. in only 11 minutes, the much-maligned Cam Wright had four of Pitt's seven steals. We all have killed Wright for his offense and generally looking out of place this season, but if you pay attention to him, he's actually a decent defender at times. Don't get me wrong, I'm still not a proponent for playing him all that much, but he does offer some value on defense as a reserve.
Speaking of the reserves, other than Dante Taylor's nine points, Pitt got nothing from anyone else. Wright, John Johnson, and J.J. Moore all went scoreless in 30 minutes. Today it wasn't so bad as those guys only took five shots, but three guys getting that much time and putting up a goose egg isn't encouraging. I've pretty much resigned myself to the fact that most of the time, those guys aren't going to produce and getting anything from them is simply a bonus. But Pitt would be much better if they could get, say 15-18 points from its bench on a regular basis.