Pitt notebook: Panthers bid farewell to star seniors Patterson, Zanna

Kevin Gorman
| Saturday, March 22, 2014, 8:45 p.m.

ORLANDO, Fla. — The two fifth-year seniors had carried Pitt all season, through last-second letdowns, overtime victories and an assortment of injuries to what would have been the biggest win in school history.

Lamar Patterson and Talib Zanna were at a loss for words after the Panthers' season and their college careers came to an end in a 61-45 loss to top-ranked Florida on Saturday in a South Region third-round game at Amway Center.

“Our career, it was long,” Patterson said, “but now that it's over I felt like it wasn't long enough.”

Patterson scored eight points on 3 for 11 shooting — 1 of 7 from 3-point range — and had a team-high eight rebounds with four assists and a steal. Zanna finished with a team-high 10 points on 5-of-7 shooting with six rebounds and shot 78.6 percent (11-14) in two NCAA tourney games.

“I'm definitely going to miss LP and Talib,” redshirt junior guard Cameron Wright said, “and what they've done for this program.”

Added sophomore point guard James Robinson: “Our seniors, they meant everything to us. We're really going to miss those guys.”

The 6-foot-5 Patterson overcame thumb and knee injuries to average team highs of 17.1 points and 8.6 assists, while the 6-9 Zanna switched from power forward to center and averaged 13.0 points and a team-best 8.6 rebounds.

Patterson, who set a school record for games played (148), is one of three players in school history to score 1,000 points (1,410), grab 500 rebounds (588) and dish 400 assists (427). Zanna finished with 1,117 points and 808 rebounds, which ranks ninth.

Pitt coach Jamie Dixon was effusive in his praise of Patterson and Zanna.

“You hope a guy gets better each year. They did. You hope they graduate. They did. You hope they play in a lot of games and win a lot of games. They did. You hope that they represent your university in a positive manner,” Dixon said.

“We performed poorly but, at the end of the day, you've got kids who represented your university. There was a lot of wins and losses — a lot less losses — from those guys. They've done a lot of things right for our university, and I think people recognize them as student-athletes.”

NFL flavor

Two high-profile NFL coaches were at Amway Center supporting their favorite college basketball teams by wearing school colors.

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin sat in the stands with his two sons wearing a Pitt shirt, and New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick sported a Gators visor.

Billy Donovan said he has “developed a very, very good relationship” with Belichick, dating to a visit to Boston years back, and attended as a guest of the Florida coach.

“He was in Gainesville, I guess it may have been a pro day or watching practice, and he called me and said he wanted to come down for the game,” Donovan said. “It's interesting you get a chance to talk to a guy like that, most of the stuff that we're talking about is the whole coaching perspective of just dealing with people and motivating people and inspiring people and different things.”

By the numbers

Pitt is now 24-26 in the NCAA Tournament, 12-10 under Jamie Dixon. … The Panthers are now 2-16 all-time against No. 1 teams, with losses this season to Syracuse and Florida. … It was the fourth time Pitt was held to fewer than 50 points — Cincinnati (44-43) on Dec. 17 and Virginia (48-45 on Feb. 2 and 51-48 on March 15) — and the fifth time the Panthers scored fewer than 25 in the first half. … Florida held an opponent to 50 points or less for the fifth time in its past three NCAA Tournaments. … Florida tied a season low with six turnovers.

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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