Pitt seniors get 2nd chance in final game at the Pete
Pitt already honored Lamar Patterson and Talib Zanna with a senior night against Florida State on Feb. 23, but that game left a bittersweet taste in their mouths because it ended in defeat.
Patterson and Zanna would love nothing more than to leave their last game at Petersen Events Center the same way they did their inaugural game in the ACC, with a victory over N.C. State. The Panthers (22-7, 10-6) host the Wolfpack (17-12, 7-9) at 9 p.m. Monday.
“It means a lot,” Patterson said. “It's my last time playing at the Pete. I just want to make sure I go out with a ‘W.' I let Pittsburgh down with a loss on senior night, so why not get a ‘W' in my last game ever at the Pete?”
It promises to be an emotional farewell for the fifth-year seniors, a pair of 1,000-point scorers who have been the catalysts for the Panthers this season as they transitioned from the Big East to the ACC.
Patterson, a 6-foot-5 swingman from Lancaster, is an All-America candidate who leads Pitt in scoring (17.2), 3-pointers (61), assists (130) and is second in rebounds (4.7) and steals (44). With seven assists at Notre Dame on Saturday, he joined Carl Krauser and Brad Wanamaker as the only players in school history with 1,000 points (1,294), 500 rebounds (549) and 400 assists (403).
Zanna, a 6-9, 230-pounder from Nigeria who switched from power forward to center this season, is second in scoring (12.6) while leading the Panthers in rebounding (8.3), blocked shots (22) and field-goal percentage (55.8). He is one of 21 players in school history to score 1,000 points (1,017) and grab 500 or more rebounds (739).
After the duo struggled during a seven-game stretch that saw the Panthers lose five games, Patterson and Zanna combined for 37 points and 21 rebounds in the 85-81 overtime victory at Notre Dame.
Coach Jamie Dixon said he believes the best way to honor his senior stars is by winning their final game before a pro-Panthers crowd at the Pete.
“It's the last home game. It's not senior night, but in a lot of ways, it is,” Dixon said. “Most importantly, we have not played as well at home as we have on the road. To me, that's got to change. We're 6-2 on the road and 4-4 at home, and that's never been the case with Pitt. We've got to get that changed. We can't deal with what's past, but we can deal with what's in the future. We've got to go and play well.”
The key to doing that, Dixon said, could be beating the Wolfpack on the boards. After enduring a three-game losing streak, the Panthers have won their past two over Boston College and Notre Dame thanks to rebounding margins of plus-15 and plus-16.
“Our emphasis is always rebounding,” Dixon said. “There will never be a headline saying, ‘They outrebounded the team,' but last game we outrebounded our opponent by 15. When we haven't, we've come up short. Oftentimes, that gets forgotten by most. For us, that is the No. 1 factor.”
Another factor will be stopping N.C. State sophomore swingman T.J. Warren, who leads the ACC in scoring at 23.8 points a game. Warren scored 23 points on 9 of 22 shooting in the first meeting, when Patterson and Zanna combined for 37 points as Pitt rallied from a 15-point, first-half deficit for a 74-62 victory Jan. 4 in Raleigh, N.C.
“We played them early in the year — it seems like years ago — but it was our first game in the ACC,” Dixon said. “We'll get ready for them in a short amount of time.”