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Defense key to Pitt’s win over UC Santa Barbara

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NCAA Basketball: Veterans Classic -Pittsburgh at Navy Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Pitt won its first basketball game of the season on Wednesday, defeating UC Santa Barbara, 70-62.

The Panthers did some good things in that contest, including shooting over 80% at the free throw line and cutting back on turnovers, which plagued them against Montana. The biggest, however, may have been the defensive effort in the second half.

Head coach Kevin Stallings said as much after the game.

“I thought we responded in the second half and played much better defensively,” Stallings said. He also indicated that a slight adjustment at halftime seemed to help.

“We made one adjustment to an action they were running in the first half that was hurting us. That seemed to stem the tide a little bit. I thought our guards were really, really good defensively in the second half. Especially Khameron Davis and Milli [Jonathan Milligan]. To hold their two guards the way we were able to – again for them to shoot 23 percent in the second half – was really big for us.”

The defense was much more aggressive in the second half and that helped. UCSB was held to only 24 points in the final 20 minutes of the game.

While Stallings didn’t indicate that the halftime speech was brutal (Pitt trailed by six), guard Jonathan Milligan said the coaches definitely got on them.

“Our coaches really man-checked us in the locker room at halftime,” Milligan said. “So we came out after that ready to accept the challenge and ready to compete.”

Thus far, Pitt is scoring some points. They’re not an offensive juggernaut by any means but averaging 70 points through three contests, the Panthers are finding a way to score a little. Defensive efforts like they gave on Wednesday will go a long to way to winning a few more games this year.

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