Pitt finds way past Boston College to break 3-game losing streak
By Kevin Gorman
Published: Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014, 10:17 p.m.
CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — After a three-game losing streak that saw Pitt slip into NCAA Tournament bubble watch status, the Panthers found a remedy: Boston College.
Led by the two players struggling most, fifth-year seniors Lamar Patterson and Talib Zanna, the Panthers rediscovered their shooting stroke in the first half and held on for a 66-59 victory over the Eagles on Wednesday night at Conte Forum.
“A great win for us on the road against a team that just beat the No. 1 team in the country,” Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said of Boston College, which handed then-No. 1 Syracuse its first loss last week. “I'm very proud of how we passed, how we played and how we shot it.”
Zanna led Pitt (21-7, 9-6 ACC) with 21 points on 7-of-10 shooting, while Patterson made 5 of 12 for 16 points and Cameron Wright 6 of 9 for 14 points. The Panthers shot 50 percent (23 of 46) from the field, including 5 of 10 from 3-point range.
“We knew they'd be back on track,” Wright said of Zanna and Patterson. “We got back to playing the way we should be playing.”
After shooting 50.4 percent from the field in their first seven ACC games, the Panthers had dipped to 37 percent in their previous seven.
“I thought it was shot selection,” Dixon said. “I know people look at different things and talk about it, but usually if you're not shooting well, that's the case. I thought we did good things early, moved the ball and took good shots. I thought it continued throughout the entire game.”
The Panthers focused on it in practice, despite taking off Tuesday to allow players to rest their assortment of injuries. Dixon stressed making good passes and taking open shots, looking especially for layups.
“We just looked for the easiest shots possible,” Patterson said. “Today was a good day, and our numbers showed it.”
Boston College (7-21, 3-12) was led by sophomore guard Olivier Hanlan, who scored a game-high 25 points on 10 of 15 shooting.
The Eagles jumped out to a 7-2 lead before the Panthers responded with a 21-4 run. The game was tied when Jamel Artis hit a 3-pointer to spark a 12-0 streak. Artis and Patterson each scored five points in that 2:45 span, as Pitt took a 23-11 lead with 11:13 left in the half.
Pitt led by as many as 15, but Hanlan kept the Eagles in the game. He scored 14 first-half points.
The Panthers shot 53.8 percent (14 of 26), making 3 of 5 shots from 3-point range, while Boston College shot 47.8 percent (11 of 23) in the first half. But Pitt also dominated the boards, with a 16-7 overall edge and seven offensive rebounds.
Pitt held a 35-26 halftime edge and stretched its lead to 14 after a tip-in by Mike Young and a 3-pointer by Patterson to start the second half.
But Boston College cut it to 49-45 on two free throws by Hanlan before a flagrant foul by Patrick Heckmann on Zanna, who made both free throws. The Eagles never got closer than five.
A three-point play by Zanna at 2:13 gave the Panthers a 62-53 lead, but Heckmann answered with a 3-pointer. Hanlan's three-point play cut it to 64-59 with one minute left, but Josh Newkirk and Zanna each made a free throw in the final 26.6 seconds to seal it.
“It's obvious, whenever you go on a three-game losing streak, that you just want to win,” Patterson said. “You do whatever you have to do. It feels good to get back in the win column.”
Kevin Gorman is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @KGorman_Trib.
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