For the third straight home game the Pittsburgh Panthers (10-3) needed a few minutes to find their groove. A turnover and four missed three-point attempts allowed the Colgate Raiders (8-5) to sprint out to a 5-0 lead.
Just like he did against the Maryland-Eastern Shore Hawks, Xavier Johnson would be the first player to put Pitt on the board after trailing 0-5. While the offense found their rhythm as the half progressed, it was the Panthers defense that propelled them to an eventual 42-23 halftime lead.
Pitt scored 17 first half points off of 12 Colgate turnovers, and collected 12 points on fast breaks. Perhaps the most impressive player in the first half was Terrell Brown, who had the half of his life. Brown scored 6 points, grabbed 4 rebounds, and recorded 7 blocks (I had him at 3 blocks and 5 alters) without committing a single foul. He also caught 2 passes while rolling after setting a screen and didn’t lose control.
Brown started the second half and continued his good night by scoring the first two baskets for the Panthers. Pitt was able to maintain a near 20-point advantage for the first 10 minutes of the half. Credit the Raiders for continuously playing hard, as they were able to cut their deficit to 13 after a made free throw by Dana Batt at the 6:05 mark.
On the second half slump, head coach Jeff Capel took a little bit of the blame: “We practiced Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday and perhaps it was too much.”
Au’Diese Toney splashed a corner triple with 3:52 remaining that put the Panthers back up 18 and pretty much slammed the door on any chance Colgate had to come back. Pitt rolled to a nice 68-54 victory to end non-conference play at 10-3.
Five Panthers reached double-digits in the scoring column: Trey McGowens (16), Jared Wilson-Frame (15), Toney (14), Johnson (11), and Brown (10). McGowens 16 points were on an efficient 6-8 from the floor. Brown added 5 rebounds and a school record 9 blocks to go along with his 10 points. As a team, Pitt tied the school record with 13 blocks.
On Brown’s record-setting night, he said, “Today I just had energy, I felt different.” He credited coach O’Toole pushing him in practice: “Coach O’Toole talks about when you do something good, how do you top that...it’s constant work, you can never be satisfied.”
Raiders head coach Matt Langel was surprised by Brown’s big night: “He was a huge surprise and a huge difference in the game...not something that we game planned for at all.”
Capel was also complimentary of Brown’s performance: “He came in and really gave us a presence in the first half.”
The Panthers will open ACC play at home against the 14th ranked North Carolina Tar Heels (8-3) next Saturday. On whether or not the team is taking a different approach this year as they enter conference play, Wilson-Frame said, “The approach isn’t different, but the results we’re looking for are.”
Asked how they be successful going forward, he added, “Keep being who we are...we’re a lot better than people think we are.”
On whether or not they talk about last year, Brown said, “We don’t even talk about last year.”