Panthers finally leave comforts of home, face Texas Tech
At 4-1, Texas Tech presents a unique set of challenges for the undefeated Pitt basketball team in its first game away from Petersen Events Center.
The Panthers dominated Savannah State, Fresno State, Howard and Lehigh by an average of 26.3 points, but the 7:30 p.m. Monday matchup in the Progressive Legends Classic features an opponent from a power conference with a different skill set from their first four opponents.
“We've made it look easy,” Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said. “It's not easy.”
Added sophomore guard James Robinson, who's second on the team in assists: “We have a lot of work to do going into (this) week.”
Pitt will face Stanford or Houston in the final set of games Tuesday night at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.
“We're probably going to play bigger teams, more physical teams, than we played the first four games,” Dixon said of Texas Tech, Stanford and Houston posting a combined 13-2 record this season. “Texas Tech (is) a physical team, a tough team. We're going to have to execute (better) in the halfcourt than we did the first four games. We're going to need to do better in the halfcourt and get the ball inside.”
Inside, 6-foot-9 senior center Talib Zanna averages a team-high 15.3 points and 9.0 rebounds while shooting a team-high 78.3 percent. Backup Derrick Randall, a 6-9 junior transfer from Rutgers, averages 5.5 points and 7.3 rebounds while shooting 60.0 percent.
Zanna and Randall are a combined 27 for 38 from the field.
“We're getting 21 points and 16 rebounds from that group. We want to go inside-out with our motion (offense),” Dixon said. “Good production and some room to improve at the same time. Randall is scoring better than we thought.”
First-year Texas Tech coach Tubby Smith, who won a national championship at Kentucky and spent several seasons at Minnesota, is trying to stabilize a program that has had five coaches since 2008.
With little time to bring in his own players, Smith focused on selling his philosophy to a core of veterans featuring 6-7 junior Jordan Tolbert, 6-7 senior Jaye Crockett and 6-3 junior Robert Turner.
Texas Tech appears to be buying what Smith is selling: Four of Smith's starters boast double-digit scoring averages.
Meanwhile, accurate outside shooting fuels Pitt's attack. The Panthers have connected on 26 of 67 3-pointers (38.8 percent). Sophomore Durand Johnson and senior Lamar Patterson lead with nine and seven 3-pointers, respectively.
Johnson drilled five 3-pointers — all in the first half — in the Panthers' 77-58 win over Lehigh.
“We shoot the ball,” Dixon said. “We feel like we can shoot from four different positions. We're better at the 2-3 (shooting guard, small forward) than we have been in several years.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Pitt football fights to overcome steppingstone status
- Pitt players support Rudolph for job
- Pederson’s 2nd tenure as Pitt AD comes to abrupt end
- Starkey: Pederson had to go at Pitt
- Pitt survives Oakland’s upset bid with overtime victory
- Rossi: It’s OK if Pitt coaches don’t stay
- Pitt coach Chryst expected to take Wisconsin job
- Pitt’s acting athletic director is deft facilitator
- Position move fits Pitt sophomore Artis
- Star Hayward enjoys go-to role for St. Francis (Pa.)
- Analysis: Misunderstood Chryst served Pitt well