Pitt basketball team almost done with inferior foes

| Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2012, 11:30 p.m.

As Pitt prepares to check its last two nonconference games off the schedule, the Panthers' first Big East game, against No. 11 Cincinnati, is less than two weeks away.

Their statistics thus far are impressive. The Panthers are outscoring opponents by a plus-24.7 margin, outrebounding them by plus-9.5 boards per game and shooting 51.8 percent from the field. But the only team they've faced with a skill set similar to what they'll see when conference play begins is No. 2 Michigan, a 67-62 loss and their only blemish so far on a 10-1 season.

So, just how ready are they to face some of the best teams in the nation?

“I feel we're pretty good, and we just have to go and prove it,” junior forward Lamar Patterson said. “We let one slip by us (against) Michigan. We just have to go out and play hard.”

Pitt beat Bethune-Cookman, 89-40, on Saturday for its most lopsided victory ever at Petersen Events Center. They'll face their second consecutive Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference opponent Wednesday in Delaware State, picked to finish second in the conference, before closing out the nonconference schedule against Kennesaw State on Sunday.

Delaware State is coming off an 80-76 overtime loss to Penn State.

Despite the lopsided scores against teams such as Bethune-Cookman and North Florida (89-47), Patterson said there is something to be taken from the games.

“It's a mental thing,” he said. “You can't play down to the competition, I've been told that the whole way growing up. It's good that we're doing what we're supposed to do against these teams, outrebounding them and playing defense. Us doing that in these games, it'll translate because we're not losing focus out there. We're focused the whole time, so when it's a tight game, I feel like our focus will be there.”

Coach Jamie Dixon said his greatest takeaway from the team's nonconference schedule is that they continue to be unselfish.

“We just want to execute,” he said. “Every minute is valuable. Everyone has a record pretty similar to ours, and you just hope you can sustain it for 40 minutes. Often times, as I look at other teams, it's closer scores. We've been able to pull away and distance ourselves even more. … Bottom line is we're playing unselfish all the way through.”

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

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