Pitt followed the script Cincinnati used when the Bearcats marched into the Pete and pulled out a road victory over the Panthers - play suffocating defense in the second half, get to the line (and hit free throws), and win the battle of the boards. That is how Pittsburgh wins basketball games and that's how they won tonight in a hostile Fifth Third Arena 62-52.
The player of the game was Steven Adams, who slowly throughout the game asserted himself offensively and was a force defensively. Adams went 5-6 from the floor and 3-4 from the line, ending with 13 points, 2 boards, 2 assists, and 4 blocks. In the first half, I was asked why Jamie Dixon didn't go to Adams more on the offensive end and my answer at the time was Dixon and Pitt were still unsure of where Adams' progress was on the offensive end. Well, this performance should see Steve get some more touches going forward and if he continues to hit his free throws, Dixon can feel more confident about sending the 7 footer in.
Tray Woodall also was a bright spot offensively, hitting huge 3's throughout the game just as it appeared Cincy was running away with the game and as Pitt was ready to take control of the game. He led the Panthers with 14 points, going 4-6 from deep. Woodall also became the 41st Panther to reach 1000 points in their career to go along with over 500 assists. He is without a doubt a true Pitt basketball player and congratulations to him.
As a team, Pittsburgh locked down defensively in the second half after the Bearcats were rolling offensively towards the end of the first half, ending the half with a 10-2 run. In December, it was Cincinnati who held Pitt for over 10 minutes without a field goal. Tonight, the Panthers didn't allow a made shot for the final 9:21 as Pitt went on a 23-7 run from that point on. Pittsburgh also only turned the ball over 7 times, something that I was worried about going into the game against a very good Cincinnati defense.
Now for the bad - the bench did not make as big an impact as we've grown accustomed to, scoring just 11 points on 4-13 shooting, highlighted by Dante Taylor missing two easy layups in the first half. Cincinnati is a very good defensive team, but Taylor struggled offensively, Cam Wright wasn't himself on the offensive end, Durand Johnson didn't even attempt a shot. Just a very poor shooting night from the bench.
But in the end, it's a road win against a quality opponent, one that Pitt can use to likely lock them into the NCAA Tournament and a good seed. Pittsburgh is now 20-5 and 8-4 in the Big East - the 12th consecutive season that Pitt has won 20 games. The Panthers get a week off before traveling to another tough road venue in Milwaukee as they take on Marquette next Saturday. Tip will be at 1 p.m. on CBS.