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Pitt notebook: Freshmen play key role in road win

| Saturday, Jan. 4, 2014, 10:54 p.m.

RALEIGH, N.C. — When nothing else was working, Pitt turned to its freshmen.

Although they were overshadowed by the upperclassmen in the second half of the 74-62 victory over North Carolina State Saturday, three newcomers made key contributions for the Panthers in their inaugural ACC game.

The trio combined for half of Pitt's 26 first-half points, providing an offensive punch after Pitt fell behind by 15 points, and finished with 24 points.

“We weren't playing that good, and they got out to a big run,” Pitt fifth-year senior Lamar Patterson said. “Our freshmen responded and we took it from there.”

Power forward Mike Young scored Pitt's first points — and the Panthers' only basket of the game's first six minutes — and finished with 13 points and two rebounds. Backup forward Jamel Artis added six points and one rebound. Point guard Josh Newkirk, a Raleigh native, provided a spark off the bench, scoring five first-half points for a happy homecoming.

“I'm excited about our new guys,” Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said. “We're excited about their futures.”

What the trio showed is that their futures might be now.

“We're not freshmen anymore,” Young said. “We've played 14 games — and one in the ACC.”

The best defense

Dixon downplayed Pitt switching from its man-to-man defense to a zone in the first half, crediting improved shooting instead of its scheme for the turnaround.

That's why the Panthers returned to their man-to-man defense in the second half.

“I don't think our zone was that good, to be honest,” Dixon said. “I thought our offense got a little better. We scored some baskets. That had something to do with it. We still got beat on the boards — we were down 10 at halftime — so the only way we were going to get back in it was to go and rebound. The way we do that is when we defend man-to-man and block out in man-to-man. That's who we are. We're going to throw a zone in there to take them out of their rhythm.”

But center Talib Zanna said the zone had a positive impact against N.C. State's T.J. Warren, who was leading the ACC in scoring at 23.7 points a game. Warren scored nine points in the first six minutes and finished with 22 on 9-of-22 shooting.

“We wanted to do that so that we could slow Warren down,” Zanna said. “He couldn't get any shots. We knew they couldn't shoot from the outside. The zone really helped us. We deflected a lot of passes, and that kind of changed their rhythm.”

Next up

Pitt (13-1, 1-0) plays host to Maryland (10-5, 2-0) at 7 p.m. Monday at Petersen Events Center. The game will be televised on ESPNU.

Kevin Gorman is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at kgorman@tribweb.com or via Twitter @KGorman_Trib.

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