Pitt wins ACC debut, beating N.C. State
RALEIGH, N.C. – With Pitt's ACC debut off to an inauspicious start, Lamar Patterson and Talib Zanna found themselves sitting on the bench, staring at a 15-point first-half deficit.
Worse yet, they were being admonished by coach Jamie Dixon, who challenged his fifth-year seniors to show some leadership, not to mention toughness, against N.C. State.
“Something clicked,” Patterson said. “We knew if we were going to win this game, it was going to have to be us. We were going to win it as a whole, but they were going to need our leadership. Me and Talib didn't say much to each other, but we knew what needed to be done.”
Then Patterson and Zanna went out and took over, scoring 26 of their combined 37 points in the second half to lead Pitt to a 74-62 victory over N.C. State Saturday afternoon before 14,049 at PNC Arena.
The 6-foot-5 Patterson led the Panthers (13-1, 1-0 ACC) with 22 points, eight rebounds, six assists and two steals, while the 6-9 Zanna added 15 points, nine rebounds and two steals in the post against 7-1 Jordan Vandenberg and 6-9, 325-pound backup BeeJay Anya.
“I'm pretty confident in Lamar and Talib,” Dixon said. “They weren't very good early, there's no question about it, but they were pretty good afterward.”
It was Pitt's first game at N.C. State in 40 years, and the Panthers made it a memorable one for their first ACC victory after officially leaving the Big East in July.
N.C. State (10-4, 0-1) jumped out to leads of 17-2 and 19-4 in the first half, as ACC scoring leader T.J. Warren scored nine of his game-high 23 points in the first 5:34.
Pitt switched from its man-to-man to a zone defense in an attempt to break the Wolfpack's rhythm, and eventually trimmed it to 34-26 by halftime.
The Panthers shot 9 of 27 from the field (33.3 percent) in the first half to N.C. State's 48.3 (14 of 29). The Wolfpack also held a 22-12 rebounding edge, including seven offensive boards, and outscored the Panthers, 20-8, in the paint.
“I said to our guys at halftime, ‘We couldn't have been worse,' ” Dixon said. “We were down eight, had the ball and felt like we could come out and do some things if we showed some more patience on the offensive end.”
Pitt opened the second half by outscoring N.C. State, 13-4, tying it on Patterson's driving layup before taking its first lead of the game after Patterson fed Cameron Wright for a three-point play and a 41-38 edge at 15:29. At that point, Pitt had outscored the Wolfpack, 37-19, since its ominous start.
The Panthers shot 63 percent (17 of 27) and owned 17-13 rebounding advantage over the Wolfpack in the second half, scoring 26 points in the paint and 18 on the fast break.
“We came out in the second half and we looked stunned,” N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried said. “The second half was real simple: They out-toughed us. They were tougher than our team was, period. They defended us tougher than we defended them. They got after loose balls. They pushed the ball on the break, and we did not respond.”
Pitt stretched its lead to double digits, taking a 66-53 advantage after a Zanna three-point play and a Patterson 3-pointer to beat the shot-clock buzzer with 4:32 left.
“I thought those two guys were terrific,” Gottfried said. “Those two guys obviously did a much better job in the second half.”