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Pitt vs. Lehigh: Panthers reach NIT Season Tip-Off Final Four with 78-53 win

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Chris Trotman

Facing All-American candidate C.J. McCollum, the game was supposed to be much closer. For a half, it was as Pitt led only 35-30 at the break. Then, the Panthers broke out with a 14-5 run and never looked back, winning 78-53.

I was surprised Lehigh didn't keep it much closer, but then it just hits you - Pitt is incredibly deep. They're legitimately playing ten guys and while that's typical early in the season, I think it will probably continue all year. The presumed 10th man is Durand Johnson who is showing he deserves at least a cursory consideration to receive minutes. Assuming (and it's a big assumption, by the way) Pitt can stay healthy, the Panthers might have one of the deepest teams in the nation.

We've spent a lot of time talking about Pitt's two freshman starters, Steven Adams and James Robinson, but tonight was all about the upperclassmen. Tray Woodall and Talib Zanna led the way with a combined 43 points and Woodall led the team with eight assists. And I said it before, so I might as well say it again. Dante Taylor, ya'll. Taylor had a modest four points, but it was on 2-3 shooting and he led the team in rebounds with ten.

I mentioned it last night, but it's all about guys simply filling roles. Taylor doesn't need to score a ton - he needs to provide rebounding depth off the bench and not play the Statue of Liberty on defense. James Robinson just needs to run the offense without turning the ball over. Trey Zeigler doesn't need to average 15 points a game like he used to, just provide modest offense from the bench. Guys are just really filling roles well and the team is clicking on all cylinders. Robinson had a bad night shooting the ball (1-8), but he didn't have a turnover.

And it's early, but the J.J. Moore/Lamar Patterson watch continues for me. Patterson had another low-key night with only three points as the starter while Moore came off the bench for eight. I'm not sure Moore should be starting right now (after all - why mess with a good thing?), but he's making his case.

Next up, Pitt gets its first true test in No. 5 Michigan as the tournament heads to New York next week. Assuming the Panthers don't slip up against Oakland this weekend, a win over the Wolverines would surely mean a top 25 ranking. Big, big game next week.

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