"Finally, Pitt gets a true test!"
I'm pretty sure I uttered that at some point in the past couple of days. Yeah, so much for that.
Pitt had little no trouble with Texas Tech on Monday in a 76-53 romp in the first semifinal of the Legends Classic at the Barclays Center. Next up will be a date in the championship with either Stanford or Houston.
First things first, I thought the game might not be all that close as I wrote in the Gamethread intro. Texas Tech just isn't a real good team as I said, evidenced by their loss to Alabama and some substandard wins.
That said, I didn't quite expect this. Pitt started fast and never looked back. I expected Texas Tech to keep it a little closer in the first half and when they didn't, I figured they'd make a run in the second half. Neither happened and the Panthers cruised to a relatively easy win.
Texas Tech was just, as a whole, pretty bad. They did pretty much play Pitt even on the boards, but other than that, the Panthers dominated. Pitt shot 48% to the Red Raiders' 38%. Pitt had nine steals to only two for Texas Tech. The other factor was the game behind the arc.
It's early, but Pitt suddenly looks like a decent three-point shooting team. They hit ten more of them on Monday and doubled up Texas Tech in that area. I made this point on Twitter earlier, but Pitt really has a different dimension to their game. The Panthers look more athletic and are able to hit more shots from the outside.
Pitt had a pretty balanced effort with seven guys scoring at least five points, but the clear star of the game was Lamar Patterson. Patterson had a game-high 23 points, three assists, four steals, and a block. He was 8-13 from the field and also had four big three-pointers. Patterson was all over the court and was clearly the best player on the floor on Monday.
He had some help, though. Cameron Wright was second in scoring with 12 points and, as he usually does, played excellent defense with three steals and a block. Pitt's bench also outscored Texas Tech's reserves, 23-16, and the Panthers were just sharp in pretty much every area.
One thing I was a little concerned about was the play of Texas Tech's star forwards, Jordan Tolbert and Jaye Crockett. Overall, they didn't disappoint, as the two combined for 26 points. But on the glass, they fell a little short, with only eight boards. Crockett, in particular, was quiet with a single rebound.
Another encouraging thing was that Pitt looked completely comfortable in a neutral site. The level of competition, of course, has to be taken into account, but that's been a problem for the Panthers in the NCAA Tournament. Playing well at a neutral site and looking comfortable is definitely a plus.
Pitt gets another major-conference opponent on Tuesday night in the final.