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Pitt slows down Loyola Marymount, 85-68

| Friday, Dec. 6, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Pitt's Michael Young dunks over Loyola Marymount's C.J. Blackwell (2) and Gabe Levin in the first half Friday, Dec. 6, 2013, at Petersen Events Center.

Loyola Marymount traveled 4,298 miles for the opportunity to play Pitt in a nonconference game at Petersen Events Center.

The Lions would have needed time travel to beat the Panthers on Friday night.

This wasn't the Bo Kimble-led Loyola Marymount team of 1989-90 that still ranks as the highest-scoring team in NCAA history at 122 points a game, the one that made a miraculous run to the Elite Eight after Hank Gathers died during the WCC tournament.

Pitt cruised to an 85-68 victory over undermanned and overmatched Loyola Marymount, holding the Lions to a season-low scoring total in the fifth of a six-game road trip that will cover 15,843 miles.

“We will have played nine of our first 10 games on the road, and I hope that serves us well later,” Loyola Marymount coach Max Good said. “Playing against a caliber team of Pittsburgh will make us better, but I laugh when people talk about the travel and how tough it is.”

Loyola Marymount (6-3) played without center Godwin Okonji, lost to a leg injury suffered in a preseason auto accident, and forwards Ayodeji Egbeyemi and Nino Jackson, who were injured Monday at UC Riverside.

Pitt showed no mercy, nor did Good expected any.

“You think Jamie Dixon cares about that? You think Pitt's players care that we've got people down? (Heck) no,” Good said. “I'll tell you what their attitude is — I know what it is because it's mine: When you get somebody down, you step on their neck until their bones pop, then you pee in their ear. I'm not trying to be funny. They've got a killer mentality.”

Pitt (9-0) handcuffed senior guard Anthony Ireland, holding him to six points in the first half, and maintained a double-digit lead for the final 26:22. Ireland finished with a game-high 20 points in 38 minutes, scoring seven in the final 2:20.

“It didn't bother me,” said Ireland, a 5-foot-10 senior guard who averages 18.9 points a game. “I was just trying to pick my spots as best as I can, trying to get my teammates involved. Give them credit. They did a good defensive job on me. They played well. I've just got to do better.”

The Panthers shot 58.3 percent (35 of 60) from the field and held Loyola Marymount to 38.8 percent shooting (26 of 67).

Ireland and backcourt partner Evan Payne (16 points) shot a combined 12 for 31 from the field, going 3 for 6 from 3-point range.

“We had deer in the headlights and didn't do it,” Good said. “We cut it to 14 in the second half, made a mild run. Frankly, we had guys who kind of froze. Instead of getting in transition, they made us pay, as good teams do. Pitt's good. We'll see how good as the year goes along, but they're plenty good.”

Although the Panthers lost the battle of the boards 37-35, it was in part to their scoring 54 points in the paint. Pitt also had 23 assists on its 35 field goals, with point guard James Robinson finishing with nine points, six assists and one turnover.

“We did what we wanted to do offensively, I thought, and the defense got better as the game went on,” Dixon said. “For the most part, we did get to all of our goals. To their credit, they kept battling.”

Cameron Wright made 7 of 9 field goals for a team-high 14 points and was one of five Panthers to score in double figures. Talib Zanna and Durand Johnson scored 12 points each, while Lamar Patterson and Michael Young both added 10.

“I think we're a really unselfish team,” Robinson said. “Everybody is capable of creating their own shot, but we're unselfish. We look for each other. We don't care who gets to shine as long as we win.”

Kevin Gorman is a staff writer forTrib Total Media. Reach him at kgorman@tribweb.com or via Twitter @KGorman_Trib.

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