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Pitt's Patterson making plays as hybrid

| Monday, Nov. 11, 2013, 11:00 p.m.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Pitt's Lamar Patterson scores past Savannah State's Jyles Smith during the first half Friday, Nov. 8, 2013, at Petersen Events Center.

Thanks to his high basketball IQ, forward Lamar Patterson could lead Pitt in assists this season.

Patterson equaled a career-high with seven assists in only 21 minutes in the Panthers' 88-55 season opening win against Savannah State, and coach Jamie Dixon sees no reason why the trend won't continue.

“I think it's a strength of ours. We have pretty good passers on the perimeter. Lamar is similar to Brad, he almost is a point forward,” said Dixon, who compares Patterson to former Pitt star Brad Wanamaker. “He's one of the smartest guys we've ever had here in understanding stuff.”

When the 1-0 Panthers host 1-0 Fresno State tonight at 7 at Petersen Events Center, don't be surprised if the versatile senior plays four different positions — point guard, shooting guard, small forward and power forward.

“We almost had him at the five (in the opener),” Dixon about considering moving the 6-foot-5, 225-pound Patterson to center. “He's playing four spots and I anticipate him playing three on a regular basis. It gives us the opportunity to use him at different spots and put him in different sets as a playmaker. I wouldn't be surprised if he does lead us in assists.”

This year, Patterson — who averaged 10 points, 4.7 rebounds and 3.1 assists in 27 minutes as a junior — arguably is Pitt's most experienced returning ball distributor.

When asked to define his role, Patterson said, “I just go out there and do everything I need to do.”

In a season where Dixon expects contributions from his talented freshmen and sophomores, Patterson's role as a veteran who's seen and done it all before becomes even more significant.

A basketball clinician, Patterson is a fundamentally sound player who expects the same analytical outlook from his teammates. He's encouraged about Tuesday night's game because of how efficiently the Panthers ran their offense in the opener.

Pitt shot 50 percent from the field, 46.7 percent from three-point range, and 76.3 percent from the foul line against Savannah State.

“Everything worked good,” Patterson said. “We had a lot of assists, a lot of great decisions.”

Notes: Fresno State stunned UC Irvine, 98-97, in overtime Friday on Allen Huddleston's 40-foot three-pointer at the buzzer. ... Dixon said the Panthers still are adjusting to new rules encouraging officials to calls more fouls this season to help increase scoring. Pitt received 21 fouls against Savannah State, which shot 10 of 14 from the foul line. Savannah State received 27 fouls, as Pitt made 29 of 38 free throws. “With the trips to the foul line, I don't know if it's going to continue, but ... we've got to learn from it, we've got to get better, we've got to cut down on the fouls if they're going to call it that way,” Dixon said. ... Freshmen Jamel Artis and Chris Jones missed all four of their field goals, but they were a combined 6 of 8 from the foul line in their college debuts. “You haven't seen them play as well as they can play,” Dixon said. “They played a little better, but I still think those guys will give us good minutes. We're looking forward to watching them get better and more comfortable.”

John Harris is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at jharris@tribweb.com or via Twitter @jharris_Trib

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