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Panthers Thump New Orleans, 99-57

There was no looking ahead to Christmas for the Pittsburgh Panthers (9-3) on Thursday night, as they put away the New Orleans Privateers (5-5) early on. The freshman trio of Xavier Johnson, Trey McGowens, and Au’Diese Toney outscored the entire New Orleans team in the first half, 39-26, and ultimately for the game. As a team, Pitt scored 19 points off turnovers in the first half, and didn’t allow the Privateers an attempt from the charity stripe on route to a 52-26 halftime lead.

The Panthers relied on the 2-3 zone and were able to get their hands on nearly every pass attempt, and curtailed players looking to drive. Offensively, for the second straight game, several players initiated the offense and looked to kick the ball back out to shooters off penetration. They were able to get anything they wanted against UNO individually, yet still shared the ball.

Pitt opened the second half on cruise control and didn’t convert from the field going into the first media timeout. New Orleans didn’t exactly capitalize, however. The Panthers constantly maintained a 20 point advantage.

On another note, former players Julius Page and Ronald Ramon were excellent on the broadcast. I fully support a “Barbershop” show with former Pitt players. That was about the most exciting thing about the second half until walk-on Anthony Starzynski canned a triple with a 1:53 left in the game.

The Panthers sunk the Privateers on their way to nearly reaching the century mark, 99-57, in what has to be considered their most complete performance against a not-so-good opponent this season.

The aforementioned freshman trio all reached the 20-point mark in this one. McGowens (24) and Toney (20) set career highs, while Johnson (21) continued his 12-game streak of reaching double-digits in the scoring column.

As a team, Pitt scored 32 points off turnovers and racked up 22 points off fast breaks. They also made 22-23 free throws on the night, and nearly hauled in twice as many rebounds (40) as UNO (21).

Perhaps it’s also worth nothing that at 9 wins, the Panthers now have one more win than last season. They’ll have to wait a little more than week off before they can add to that total. The Colgate Raiders (8-4) are next up on the agenda for next Saturday.

Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter @PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt athletics. Follow the author @Stephen_Gertz