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Pitt basketball team seeks another 4-0 start

| Friday, Nov. 16, 2012, 11:00 p.m.

So far so good for the Pitt men's basketball team, a normal state of affairs for this time of year. A win Saturday over Oakland at the Petersen Events Center would make it 14 of the past 15 seasons in which the Panthers started 4-0.

After that, Pitt takes a giant step up in class, facing fifth-ranked Michigan in the preseason NIT semifinals Wednesday at Madison Square Garden.

Not that the Panthers are overlooking Oakland, although history is working against the Golden Grizzlies, who hail from Rochester, Mich., and compete in the Summit League.

Pitt is 94-3 in non-conference games at the Pete and 3-0 against Oakland, including a 23-point win in the second round of the 2010 NCAA Tournament — the last time the teams met.

Also in Pitt's favor is how it has played in the first three games.

The Panthers were expected to win each one but still looked impressive, defeating Mount St. Mary's, Fordham and last year's NCAA Tournament darling, Lehigh, by an average of nearly 31 points.

“What I'm really excited about is the improvement we've made from our first exhibition game (on Oct. 26),” Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said.

Against Lehigh, Pitt held preseason All-American C.J. McCollum to 17 points in a 78-53 win. McCollum got off just 11 shots. He made seven, but his teammates went 9-of-30 from the field.

Pitt's foes have shot 37.2 percent. With 10 players averaging double-figures in minutes, the Panthers are shooting 56.4 percent.

Senior guard Tray Woodall (16.3 points a game) and junior forward Talib Zanna (16.0), lead the scoring. Woodall also has 20 assists in the three games.

Building on last season's strong finish, Zanna, 21 of 28 from the field, has made the most of his time. He has played just less than 20 minutes a game so far.

Bob Cohn is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at bcohn@tribweb.com or 412-320-7810.

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