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Torrid shooting leads way for Pitt in rout over Clemson at Pete

| Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2014, 10:11 p.m.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Pitt's Lamar Patterson scores past Clemson's Ibrahim Djambo in the first half Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2014, at Petersen Events Center.

Clemson presented a challenge close to Pitt's heart, as the Tigers entered their ACC game ranked among the nation's top three in defending against field goals and 3-pointers.

So the Panthers went and shot the lights out.

No. 20 Pitt came out firing and jumped to a double-digit lead in the first nine minutes in cruising to a 76-43 victory over Clemson on Tuesday night at Petersen Events Center.

Pitt (17-2, 5-1) bounced back from its loss at Syracuse on Saturday to move into a second-place tie with Virginia (14-5, 5-1) in the ACC standings, dropping Clemson (13-5, 4-2) into fourth place.

The Panthers play at Maryland on Saturday and host Duke on Monday.

“We were ready for them,” said senior center Talib Zanna, who scored a game-high 22 points on 9-of-10 shooting. “We were kind of mad about the loss we had against Syracuse, and we tried to take it out on them.”

The Panthers made eight of their first 11 shots from the field (72.7 percent), including their first three 3-point attempts, against a Clemson team that ranked third nationally in field-goal defense (36.2 percent) and first in the country against the 3-pointer (24.9 percent).

Pitt finished shooting 56.3 percent (27 of 48) from the field and 53.3 percent (8 of 15) on 3-pointers. Lamar Patterson (13), Cameron Wright (12) and Josh Newkirk (10) also scored in double figures for the Panthers. Patterson made three 3s, and Newkirk and James Robinson each had two.

“That figure was a big motivation for us, how few field goals they've allowed,” Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said.

“That's what we want to be, what we claim to be, and we set a goal of getting to that right away.”

Pitt finished with 24 assists on its 27 field goals (88.9 percent), including all 12 in the first half and its first 16 of the game.

“They're a terrific passing team,” Clemson coach Brad Brownell said. “They make plays kind of out of nowhere. You guard them for 25 seconds, and at the end of a shot clock, somebody will make a great read on a pass and they'll be laying it in.

“The defense isn't as bad as it looks. They're just so good passing the ball. That's demoralizing, to play defense for 30 seconds and then give up a layup. And that happened several times. We just didn't respond.”

Robinson said the offensive surge was sparked by Pitt's defense, holding Clemson to 32 percent shooting (16 of 50) while beating the Tigers on the boards 33-28.

“We had to get back to executing,” said Robinson, who had eight assists and no turnovers. “Our offense comes when we make stops on the defensive end. We made stops on defense, and that led to offensive buckets, but they're a really good defensive team.”

Pitt assisted on every field goal until Robinson made an unassisted jump shot from the left wing for a 48-24 lead at the 15:00 mark. Newkirk did the same at 13:10, pulling up for a jumper in the lane.

The Panthers took a 30-point lead at 11:58 of the second half, when Newkirk found Zanna to make it 54-24. At that point, Zanna had made all eight field-goal attempts, just three shy of Brian Shorter's school record.

It was the first game of a grueling stretch for Clemson, which plays four of its next five games on the road. The Tigers were dealt an early blow when leading scorer K.J. McDaniels drew his second personal foul at 13:28 of the first half and went to the bench. He finished with 11 points.

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

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