We're accustom to seeing the Pittsburgh Panthers start slow against mid-major programs at the Petersen Events Center. The Albany Great Danes led for a good portion of the first half; however, the Panthers were too long and athletic for Albany. They pulled away late in the first half and maintained their lead for the entire second half on their way to a 58 - 46 victory.
Both teams started the first half looking to score inside. Albany got off to a fast start; they opened the game 5-6 from the floor, including a three-pointer, which gave the Great Danes a 11 - 6 lead over Pitt at the 15:06 mark in the first half. Junior guard Cameron Wright was sensational in this one. Early in the game, Wright looked to facilitate from the middle of the paint; he found the Panthers bigs for layups or dunks on the first two possessions of the game.
Pitt went to a 2-3 zone to keep Albany out of the paint a little more than halfway through the first half. The Great Danes took three early attempts against the zone from beyond the arc, two of which didn't even hit the rim. Wright scored eight straight points for the Panthers shortly after on a variety of mid-range jumpers and floaters to give Pitt a 26 - 18 lead with just 2:29 remaining in the half.
Sophomore point guard James Robinson added a layup before the half ended, and both teams went to the locker rooms with the Panthers leading 28 - 18. Pitt scored 20 of their 28 points in the paint; eight of those points were in transition. Wright finished the half with 10 points, six rebounds, and five assists.
A layup by senior forward Lamar Patterson gave the Panthers a 36 - 20 advantage at the 15:26 mark. But Albany wouldn't roll over. Senior guard DJ Evans began heating up for the Great Danes. He scored eight of the next ten points for Albany to cut into Pitt's lead.
The Panthers put things into cruise control a little too early, as the Great Danes were able to cut the lead to just seven points with 3:33 remaining in the game. Pitt looked to their best player on the afternoon, Cameron Wright. His layup on the next possession pushed the lead back to nine, and the Panthers put the game on ice with six consecutive free throws to give them the 58 - 46 win.
Wright did a little bit of everything for Pitt - 14 points, eight rebounds, and eight assists. Senior forward Talib Zanna chipped in with 10 points and pulled down nine rebounds. Lamar Patterson went over the 1,000 point mark for his career in the game; his 14 points tied Cameron for the team-high.
After the game Wright talked about Patterson scoring 1,000 points in his career, "Everything he's done...he deserves it."
Albany was led by Evans; he finished with a game-high 18 points, 15 in the second half. Junior forward Sam Rowley scored 10 points and added a team-high eight rebounds for the Great Danes. Albany head coach Will Brown, said that the 2-3 zone surprised him, and that the length and athleticism of the Panthers was hard to overcome.
Patterson also shared his thoughts about whether or not the non-conference schedule has helped prepare Pitt for ACC play, "It was good. We got a lot of pluses out of it...we learned what we needed to do to get better as a team." When asked about where the Panthers would finish in the ACC, Coach Brown responded, "Top-4."
The Pittsburgh Panthers will start ACC play this Saturday (1/4) at North Carolina State (10-3).