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Pitt basketball working inside game

| Saturday, Nov. 10, 2012, 10:46 p.m.
Pitt's Talib Zanna scores over Mount St. Mary's Kristijan Krajina (13) and Rashad Shack in the first half at Petersen Events Center Nov. 9, 2012. Chaz Palla | Tribune Review

Pitt senior guard Tray Woodall said after Friday's season-opening 80-48 win over Mount St. Mary's that the Panthers didn't want to settle for jump shots.

So they spent the night driving to the basket, ended with 58 points scored in the paint and set a school record for highest field-goal percentage (70.8).

“We've got big guys inside and guards who can attack and get to the basket,” Woodall said. “We have athletic players. We didn't want to settle, and we just know we can get layups. Once we got them early, we were confident that we could get them at the end.”

Next for Pitt is Fordham in the NIT Season Tip-off at Petersen Events Center on Monday at 6 p.m. Robert Morris plays Lehigh in the second game at 8:30. The winners meet Tuesday night.

Fordham dropped its season opener at Texas State, 86-76, and turned the ball over 23 times in the loss.

Forcing more turnovers was a focal point for Pitt leading up to the season opener, and it scored 24 points off 16 turnovers by Mount St. Mary's.

“In any game, not just a high major game, you can't afford to turn the ball over,” Mount St. Mary's coach Jamion Christian said. “We had a couple of live-ball turnovers and didn't stick to the plan we set for the guys. In games like this against good teams, it can get away from you.”

Pitt coach Jamie Dixon stressed that this isn't the first year the Panthers have emphasized forcing turnovers. But after finishing last season ranked 269th in the country in turnover margin, it is an area in which the Panthers needed to improve.

“It's not like the light bulb turned on,” Dixon said. “We've tried to do the things we do and force turnovers but still be one of the best in the country as far as field-goal percentage defense. But we're trying to do it a little more. I think we did it in the exhibition games. We hope to play solid defense by also causing some turnovers and getting some deflections and, hopefully, that leads to some easier baskets in transition.”

Karen Price is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7980 or kprice@tribweb.com.

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