Pitt's depth, defense foil Fordham
A formula that coach Jamie Dixon hopes Pitt can ride back to national prominence overwhelmed Fordham on Monday night at Petersen Events Center.
Forward J.J. Moore showcased Pitt's depth by coming off the bench to score a game-high 20 points, and sticky defense never allowed the Rams to get into a rhythm as the Panthers rolled to an 86-51 victory.
Six players scored at least seven points for Pitt in the NIT Tip-Off tournament game, with freshman center Steven Adams (13) and senior guard Tray Woodall (12) also cracking double figures.
Pitt (2-0) outscored Fordham (0-2), 42-14, in the paint and converted 19 turnovers into 28 points. It held the Rams to 36.6 percent shooting and played such airtight defense that Fordham frequently had to scramble just to get a shot off before the 35-second clock expired.
“I think we've got more length and quickness and athleticism,” Dixon said of Pitt's defense. “We're understanding our assignments, and hopefully we can build off of that.”
The Panthers should get a better gauge of where they are Tuesday when they host Lehigh, with the winner advancing to the tournament semifinals next week in Madison Square Garden.
Lehigh stunned Duke in the first round of the 2012 NCAA Tournament, and guard C.J. McCollum is one of the best players in the country.
Nobody on either team was as efficient as Moore.
The 6-foot-6 junior needed just 19 minutes to come within a point of tying his career high, taking advantage of his quickness to create a matchup problem at power forward — something the Panthers hope to exploit all season.
“I think his confidence is soaring,” said Dixon, who noted that Sam Young had a breakout season as a junior while playing a role similar to the one Moore will fill.
What pleased Dixon just as much as Moore's play was that Pitt had 24 assists; Lamar Patterson had a team-high six. Such passing accounted for Adams going 5 for 5 from the field.
“I thought our unselfishness was evident all the way through,” Dixon said. “All of them played well.”
Balanced scoring and spandex-tight defense allowed Pitt to control the game from the outset.
Pitt held Rams forward Chris Gaston, a preseason first-team All-Atlantic 10 pick, scoreless in the pivotal first half and limited Fordham to 26 percent shooting from the field in the first 20 minutes. Bryan Smith made three 3-pointers to keep Fordham from getting run off the court.
Scott Brown is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.