Pitt rolls past Delaware in NIT Season Tip-Off
NEW YORK — It was hardly the best experience Pitt coach Jamie Dixon has ever had at Madison Square Garden, but he left New York on Friday feeling better about his team than he has in quite a while.
Two days after controlling most of the play against No. 4 Michigan before ultimately letting one get away, Pitt bullied Delaware in a 85-59 victory in the consolation game of the NIT Season Tip-off.
Delaware coach Monte Ross was impressed by Pitt's size and versatility. All 10 Pitt players who entered the game played at least 10 minutes.
“That was one of the more astounding offensive performances we've ever had played against us,” Ross said.
Pitt (5-1) shot 59 percent from the field, recorded 25 assists and committed only six turnovers.
Dixon clearly senses his team is capable of a significant bounce-back season after failing to miss the NCAA Tournament for the first time in a decade last season. Of last season's team, Dixon recently said, “I felt at times last year, I didn't know who to put in.”
This year, his options are many.
“I'm real happy with how we responded,” Dixon said. “We're excited about where we are right now.”
Pitt's versatility was on display against overmatched Delaware.
The Panthers' ability to score inside was evident throughout as all three members of the starting frontcourt scored in double figures. Forward Talib Zanna, Pitt's leading scorer through six games, stayed hot by producing a team-high 18 points and 10 rebounds.
Forward Lamar Patterson enjoyed a second straight solid game by registering 16 points and 10 rebounds. Center Steven Adams, held scoreless against Michigan, responded with 13 points, three rebounds and three blocks against Delaware (2-3).
“Our offense is better this year,” Zanna said. “Motion on both sides of the ball, ball screens on both sides of the ball.”
Dixon was pleased with his team's execution and unselfishness — 25 assists on 33 field goals — but more than anything, he approved of how his team responded to Friday's game. Less than 48 hours after an upsetting loss, Pitt dealt with the distraction of being on the road during a holiday and showed no sign of sluggishness, taking control from the opening minutes by going ahead, 23-6.
Pitt led by 20 at halftime and never permitted Delaware to get closer than 17 points in the second half.
Dixon liked the first 30 minutes of his team's performance against Michigan. Although Delaware is hardly Michigan, Dixon said he felt as though his team played an elite game on Friday.
And he feels like this team's best basketball awaits later this season.
“We learned some good things about ourselves,” Dixon said.
Josh Yohe is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.