So, that was fun.
If you missed the game, the first thing I can say is that the final score wasn't really indicative of how the two teams played. Pitt's 80-65 win coulda shoulda been a lot bigger on paper. The Panthers seemed to dominate most of the game and Wake Forest never put up much of a fight.
Pitt was up by 22 with about 2:30 left and a late run by the Demon Deacons made the score far more respectable. Had the Panthers not let up defensively, this should have really been more like a 25-30 point victory if we're being honest.
Starting with the opponent, you really can't say enough about Devin Thomas. He led the team in scoring and rebounding (17/9), and both were by wide margins. Two other players scored ten and Tyler Cavanaugh was next highest in rebounding with five boards. At one point in the second half, Wake was shooting only 15% from the field if you took Thomas out of the equation. He just played extremely well and was the only reason the score was as close as it was.
Stephen was at the Pete covering the game for Cardiac Hill and earlier in our gamethread, he mentioned that an NBA scout from the Cleveland Cavs was in attendance to check out Lamar Patterson. If that's the case, Patterson picked a pretty good time to have a monster game. Don't get me wrong - he's obviously been doing it all year for Pitt, but this was one of his best games.
Patterson had 27 points, six rebounds, and five assists. The three turnovers he had were easily overshadowed by his all around game, which included a steal and a block. Most notably, Patterson showed an incredible three-point stroke, hitting four of his seven shots from beyond the arc. Overall, he was 10-17 from the field and you've got to think he'll only continue to get more attention from scouts. I'm still not on the Patterson making the NBA bandwagon yet, but with each 20-point game, it's getting harder to not join that contingent. Brad Wanamaker got a lot of credit for Pitt because of his all around game - and that's fine. But Patterson needs to get that same credit and he's a significantly better scorer.
Talib Zanna's game, though, was nearly as impressive, in my mind. His 16 points weren't as many as Patterson, but he added 12 rebounds, four blocks, and didn't have a single turnover. He shot only 6-11 from the free throw line, but the rebounding has come under fire lately and Zanna was a big reason Pitt finished at +12 on the glass.
The thing that really impressed me today in addition to the intensity the team showed was the excellent passing. The Panthers had 19 assists, which is a couple more than their average on the season where they rank 13th nationally, and even beyond that, the ball movement was so good during the game. It resulted in a lot of open looks and guys getting the ball in really good positions - part of the reason they shot so well (49%).
One thing to watch is that Mike Young got only 14 minutes today. Part of it is because of the blowout, but I wonder if Jamie Dixon could be taking some of his minutes away, too. He was averaging 21 per game before today's contest, but has gotten only 16 per contest the last two games. He again underwhelmed on the boards with only one and some of those minutes went to bench players. I'd like to see him continue to get minutes and he's only going to get better by playing, but at the same time, Pitt needs guys that can come in and contribute on the boards.
On the Top 25 issue, it's hard to imagine Pitt won't at least break into the Coaches poll. They now have three straight, comfortable, wins over ACC teams and while the competition hasn't been terribly difficult just yet, 15-1 is still 15-1.
The big downer, obviously, is the Durand Johnson injury. You hope it's not serious but it didn't look that great and he didn't return. Part of that could be that Pitt just didn't need him later in the game, but well, we'll see. If the Panthers have to go without him, it would be a blow to the team since he's their most consistent scorer off the bench. If he's out, Pitt probably turns to Chris Jones a bit more and guys like Josh Newkirk and Jamel Artis will need to provide some added scoring.
But for now, enjoy the win and Pitt's tremendous start to the season.
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