Pitt routs Stanford, easily wins Legends Classic
BROOKLYN, N.Y. — Pardon the Pitt men's basketball team if it doesn't resemble the Big East bruisers New York has become accustomed to watching.
These Panthers play at a pace that wears out opponents by halftime, when they are building big leads.
If there is one thing that's familiar about Pitt, it's winning the Progressive Legends Classic.
Lamar Patterson scored 24 points, setting a career high for the second consecutive night, to earn Most Valuable Player honors and lead Pitt to an 88-67 victory over Stanford on Tuesday night in the championship game at Barclays Center.
“It was a good test, pretty much the first one we got all year,” Patterson said. “Stanford is a good team. I like the way these guys came through in crunch time and got the job done.”
It marked the second time in five years that Pitt (6-0) won this event. The Panthers also won in 2008 in Newark, N.J., beating Texas Tech and Washington State, and are 8-0 all-time in the Legends Classic.
Pitt coach Jamie Dixon continues to push his Panthers to victories by preaching the importance of defense and unselfish scoring. What is different is that this team is doing it by scoring in transition, making 3-pointers and, perhaps most importantly, sinking free throws.
The Panthers scored 75 points or more for the sixth consecutive game and 80-plus for the third time, thanks to another strong start. They have scored at least 40 points in the first half in five of their first six games and led by an average of 23 points at halftime in their first five games.
“You always expect to see a gritty, hard-nosed team, a team that's going to play tough defensively, going to grind you out,” Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins said. “What's different from what I had expected from this Pitt team — and I saw it on film, so it wasn't a surprise going into the game — I think this Pitt team is one of the best scoring Pitt teams I've seen in a long time.
“They're able to score a lot easier. That's why their numbers are so high. You look at their average per game, and you can see that's probably a big difference from years past. You have a more potent offensive team that's still a stingy defensive one.”
While Pitt's 15-point lead over Stanford (5-2) at intermission was its smallest, it might have been its most impressive.
Stanford tied it 9-9 and remained within single digits of Pitt until Durand Johnson drew a foul with 1 second left on the shot clock and made two free throws for a 30-20 lead at 5:17. Johnson also gave Pitt a 15-point lead with a 3-pointer at 3:15 and again by rebounding his own 3-point miss and scoring to make it 39-24.
Pitt outscored Stanford, 34-19, over the final 13 minutes of the half. The Panthers made 25 of 56 (45.5 percent) from the floor and 30 of 34 free throws.
Johnson had a four-point play only moments after Josh Huestis cut it to 11 with 8:57 left. Johnson sank a 3-pointer from the left wing, drawing a Chasson Randle foul, and sank the free throw for a 70-55 lead.
“That's a deflating play,” Dawkins said. “The kid hit a big shot and sent the lead back up to 15. That was difficult to overcome.”
Johnson, who had 14 points, was one of five Panthers to score in double figures, joining Patterson, Talib Zanna (14), Cameron Wright (13) and James Robinson (10). Wright had five rebounds, four assists and three steals, and he was named to the all-tournament team.
Stanford was led by 6-foot-10 senior Dwight Powell (20 points, nine rebounds), who also was named to the all-tournament team.
Kevin Gorman is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at email@example.com or via Twitter @KGorman_Trib.
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