Pitt played its second game in a row without two starters, but the remaining players picked up the slack and the Panthers (5-1) held on for an 81-71 win over cross-town rival Robert Morris (4-2) at the Petersen Events Center Sunday night. Robert Morris is now 0-30 against Pitt.
“It was a good win and a good performance from our bench,” said Pitt head coach Jamie Dixon. “If you look at our roster, there’s a lot more underclassmen than upperclassmen. We don’t focus on that, but realize it’s an opportunity to improve.”
Dante Taylor and Lamar Patterson watched the game from the bench. Taylor was suffering from headaches, possibly from a concussion, and Patterson was serving the second game of a two-game suspension.
In Taylor’s place, Khem Birch scored eight points, pulled down 11 rebounds, and blocked six shots and Talib Zanna scored 10 points and pulled down 15 rebounds.
“I’m playing more minutes and just keep getting more confidence,” Birch said. “I did well last game too.”
In Patterson’s place, J.J. Moore scored eight points, and Cam Wright scored 13 points on 6-7 shooting from the floor, pulled down three rebounds, and had two steals which he converted to break-away lay-ups.
“I try to bring defense to the table and play the passing lanes and I used it to my advantage tonight,” Wright said. “This was my first really good game.”
Even Robert Morris’ head coach Andy Toole commended the Panther bench players for fueling the Pitt win.
“They have some guys given opportunities on the floor and want to carve out a niche for themselves,” Toole said. “Zanna was playing volleyball out there by himself a couple times tonight. I think we were suffering from a little paralysis by analysis.”
Ashton Gibbs led all players with 21 points including 12 in the first half, which fueled a Pitt 42-25 lead at the break. Tray Woodall had a double-double with 12 points and 10 assists.
The Panthers led by as much as 22 points midway in the second half before the Colonials made a mad dash in the last five minutes but could get no closer than eight points. Pitt’s defense held Robert Morris top scorer Velton Jones to one field goal on 1-14 shooting from the field.
I thought we played well defensively, especially in the first half, and building up a 22- point lead was a good thing,” Dixon said. “I wish we could have closed it out a little better but we did a lot of good things.”
Pitt continues its torrid run of games this week. The Panthers traveled to Philadelphia and beat Penn 78-58 Friday night, they beat Robert Morris Sunday night, and return to play another cross town rival, Duquesne, Wednesday night at Pittsburgh’s Consol Energy Center.
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