Pitt improves to 10-0 with rout of Youngstown State
Don't pat Pitt coach Jamie Dixon on the back and tell him how unfair it is that his undefeated team is unranked. All he'll do is point to Pitt's 91-73 victory Saturday against Youngstown State at Petersen Events Center, and tell you Pitt (10-0) has a lot of work to do — especially on defense.
The 91 points were nice (and a season high), especially coming with a 51.5 field-goal percentage, 22 assists and a season-best 47-21 rebounding edge.
The numbers that Dixon can't get out of his head are these: 73 and 28.
Youngstown State (7-5) scored more than any other Pitt opponent this season, even while losing its fourth game in the past five.
YSU guard Kendrick Perry led all scorers with 28 points, a season-best by an opposing player against the Panthers. Penn State's Tim Frazier scored 27 against the Panthers on Dec. 3. Plus, Stanford's Dwight Powell and Loyola Marymount's Anthony Ireland each had 20 against Pitt in the past month.
“I don't like a guy scoring 28 points,” Dixon said. “I don't care how many points we were up by (26 midway through the second half).”
Dixon played four freshmen at the same time for short stretches, but that was no excuse.
“We have to get better defensively with our young guys,” Dixon said. “You probably heard that one before, and I'll say it again. We have made that very clear to them. ... There are reasons why we are under the radar.”
Perry, the Horizon League preseason Player of the Year, scored 13 points in the first half and finished 11 of 18 from the field while playing 39 minutes.
“We knew he was going to be aggressive.” Pitt sophomore guard James Robinson said. “Obviously, we didn't do that good of a job on him. But we were still fortunate enough to come out with a win.”
Dixon said circumstances made it difficult for Pitt to play strong defense in both halves. The Panthers had 10 players log at least 10 minutes.
“I don't want to be that guy that has his starters in with a 25-point lead,” Dixon said. “I guess we have to find something wrong. You can't play perfect for 40 minutes.”
Dixon has no quarrel with his offense. Five players scored in double digits, with Lamar Patterson (18) surpassing 10 for the eighth consecutive game. Cameron Wright had 13, followed by Derrick Randall (11), freshman Michael Young (10) and center Talib Zanna (10 points, 15 rebounds).
“We couldn't handle their strength and physicality,” said Youngstown coach Jerry Slocum, who formerly led programs at Geneva and Gannon and has 680 victories in 39 seasons. “It was one of the best shooting Pitt teams I've seen. They share the ball well.”
Pitt, off to its best start since 2008-09, has much bigger challenges ahead, starting Tuesday at Madison Square Garden where the Panthers meet former Big East nemesis Cincinnati (7-1 through Friday).
Dixon will be seeking an effective mix of offense and defense from his new players, including freshmen Jamel Artis, Josh Newkirk and Young and junior transfer Randall.
“Offensively, they are hard to guard,” Dixon said. “You can just look at the numbers. Defensively, they have to get better.
“It's to be expected, but we don't have time to wait. They are playing significant minutes on a team that is trying to do some things.”