The Panthers defeated IUP 73-56 at The Pete in its final tuneup for the regular season, which begins Monday against with a game against Rhode Island. Despite the 17-point margin, IUP was able to keep the game fairly close into the second half. Pitt was only up by 10 at halftime, 32-22 and struggled to score in the first half. After Pitt opened up a 16-point lead in the second half, IUP cut it to only nine with about 11 minutes left. But that's as close as they would get.
Still, Pitt figured to have its hands somewhat full against IUP, the Division II runner-up, and it got a pretty good test.
If this game makes you a little nervous, it shouldn't. No. 1 Duke also struggled a bit against Division II Champion, Cal Poly Pomona, on Thursday, Duke led by only six at halftime. IUP and Cal Poly Pomona are some of the best Division II programs and playing Pitt and Duke was like a championship game for them. It should have been extremely easy for both of these D-II teams to get pumped up for these games.
Former Pitt Assistant and current IUP head coach Joe Lombardi weighed in after the game:
"Pitt is just Pitt," Lombardi said after the game. "It’s size, it’s skill (and) they don’t beat themselves. That’s why they’re one of the most consistent teams in the country over the last decade."
The Panthers got off to another good start defensively. After starting on a 23-0 run against Northwood in its first exhibition game, Pitt held IUP to 1-13 from the field to start this game. Gary McGhee led Pitt with a double-double, 12 points and 11 rebounds, and three players (Patterson, Brad Wanamaker, and Travon Woodall) led the team in scoring with 13 points each.
With the return of Brown and Patterson, that leaves only Nasir Robinson on Pitt's injury list. Talib Zanna started in place of Robinson and it's assumed he'll get the nod in the regular season opener.
"I would never want to have our rotations decided on November 4 – it’s not fair to the players. We want to challenge everybody. It’s important to be developing all of our players, and not be determining the lineup at this point in time."
Pitt might not be fully ready for their opener on Monday, but time's just about up.