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Pitt improves to 9-1 with rout of North Florida

| Saturday, Dec. 8, 2012, 9:04 p.m.
Pitt's Dante Taylor dunks on North Florida's Beau Beech in the first half on Saturday, Dec. 8, 2012, at Petersen Events Center. Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Pitt center Steven Adams blocks the first-half shot of North Florida's Travis Wallace on Saturday, Dec. 8, 2012, at Petersen Events Center. Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Pitt's Cameron Wright scores past North Florida's David Jeune in the first half Saturday, Dec. 8, 2012, at Petersen Events Center. (Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review)
Pitt center Steven Adams dunks over North Florida's David Jeune in the second half on Saturday, Dec. 8, 2012, at Petersen Events Center. Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Pitt's Cameron Wright fights North Florida's Parker Smith in the first half on Saturday, Dec. 8, 2012, at Petersen Events Center. Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Pitt center Steven Adams scores over North Florida defenders in the first half on Saturday, Dec. 8, 2012, at Petersen Events Center. Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review

North Florida coach and Pittsburgh native Matt Driscoll has led his team through a stacked nonconference schedule this season, with games against Memphis, Minnesota, Florida State and Kansas State.

Before an 89-47 loss Saturday to Pitt in front of 8,708 at Petersen Events Center, Driscoll thought No. 14 Minnesota was the best of the bunch.

Not anymore.

“Now that we're done playing all these money games, I would say Pitt would probably be No. 1, then Minnesota two, Kansas State three and then Florida State and Memphis,” said Driscoll, whose college coaching career started at LaRoche. “I'm a voter in the Top 25, and I've voted (Pitt) for the last two weeks, not because of my heart but because of my head.”

Pitt (9-1) outscored North Florida (3-6), 48-17, in the second half. Lamar Patterson, Talib Zanna and Tray Woodall were all in double figures in scoring with 12 minutes left in the game, and Cameron Wright and Dante Taylor added their names to the list before it was over.

Taylor led the team in scoring with 16 points, half of which came in the final two minutes. Zanna scored 15 points and had five rebounds. Woodall had 14 points and nine assists, Patterson had 13 points and Wright 10.

This is the third season in a row and 11th of the past 12 in which Pitt has started the season 9-1 or better.

North Florida senior Parker Smith, who came into the game ranked 25th in the NCAA in 3-point field-goal percentage (47.9), was just 1 of 6 from long range. Travis Wallace and David Jeune led the Ospreys in scoring with 10 points each.

The Ospreys did not attempt a free throw. The fewest free throws attempted by a Pitt opponent before Saturday was one, versus Albany on Nov. 28, 2003.

Pitt had a 21-10 lead with 11 minutes left in the first half, but North Florida fought back to tie the score, 27-27, with 5:43 remaining. The Panthers scored the next 12 points and took a 41-30 lead into the break.

“They came out making shots, and that's what we knew they could do,” Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said. “We're trying to address some things on our defensive transition, and it's not where it needs to be. We understand that and we're working on it. … We just kept battling and fighting, and our offense was good all the way through. You can't be much more efficient than we were offensively.”

Pitt shot 58.9 percent from the field, scored 30 points off 17 North Florida turnovers and was 21 of 25 from the free-throw line.

And, despite losing the battle on the boards in the first half, 14-12, the Panthers finished with a 35-21 rebounding advantage.

“We were a little disappointed in ourselves (in the first half),” Taylor said. “We knew we had to pick it up and just came out and executed.”

Entering finals week, Pitt has just three nonconference games left on its schedule, beginning with Bethune-Cookman on Saturday.

Pitt football coach Paul Chryst took in the game along with 13 recruits and got a standing ovation from the crowd when he was shown on the video board.

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

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