Despite a few early turnovers, and a few lead changes in the early minutes of the game, Pitt was in control in all facets of the game in a 93-55 win over DePaul Saturday.
Pitt improves to 17-4 overall, 5-3 now in Big East play. Pitt was won its last four in a row, all conference games.
"Obviously, I'm happy with our guys and how we kept coming at them," head coach Jamie Dixon said afterwards. "Our strength, I tell them afterwards, is our ten guys. We just kept coming at them with unselfishness."
Pitt was led in scoring by Trey Zeigler, who came off the bench for a career-high 18 points. J.J. Moore finished with 10, also off the bench. Lamar Patterson added 15 points, the fourth time in the last five games he's finished in double-digits.
The Panthers were most dominant in the paint where they outrebounded DePaul 58-34 for the game--it's largest rebounding margin of the Big East season. That included a 38-19 edge on the defensive rebounds. Steven Adams and Dante Taylor were a big factor in that. Adams had a game-high 14 rebounds, also tying his previous career-high set against Duquesne earlier this year. Taylor added eight rebounds in 18 minutes off the bench.
"I think both guys have played well," Dixon said of Adams and Taylor. "(Adams) is working hard. I think we're continuing to get him the ball more, inside, and he's continuing to go to the basket. I think all that stuff compounds. No guy is having an adjustment, as big a transition as him--where he came from, to the Big East."
Every player scored, had a rebound and had an assist. Interestingly, the bench outscored its DePaul counterparts 52-26. They nearly outscored the entire DePaul team, and outscored the Pitt starters 52-41. Cameron Wright, who finished with eight points off the bench, said there's not even any joking or bragging rights that go on between the starters and the reserves. According to him, as long as the team wins, that's all that really matters.
"I didn't even know that stat, but that's never an issue," Wright said. "It makes us a lot better, in general. It creates a better unity as a team. It just displays that we're a great team in practice."
Of course, Pitt did turn the ball over 18 times. Dixon said while it's normal to expect a higher number of turnovers with a higher number of offensive possessions, turnovers is an area he feels needs improvement.
"If we're going to point at something we should have done better, it would be the turnovers," Dixon said. "We still had too many. That's something we've got to be prepared for."
Pitt jumped out to a 53-30 lead at halftime lead over DePaul. Despite six lead changes in the first five minutes of the game, Pitt settled in thanks to a 11-3 run. Johnson scored seven of Pitt's first 16 points. After a dunk, then a layup off a feed, Pitt was starting to get control of the game.
Pitt had six turnovers in the game's first five minutes. Over the final 15 minutes of the first half, the Panthers turned the ball over just twice. As part of taking better care of the ball came an increased presence on the glass. Pitt outrebounded DePaul 30-19 in the first half alone, led by seven from Adams and five from Taylor.
In addition to Johnson, Pitt was getting some heavy contributions from its bench on Saturday. In addition to Taylor's five rebounds, he also led the Panthers at the break, finishing with eight points. Zeigler came through with another big performance off the bench. He came in very early in the game, at the 17:44 mark, and scored seven points. More importantly, he turned two offensive rebounds into a pair of field goals.
Wright--after not playing any minutes at Providence--something Dixon id after the game that he regretted--finished with six points in the first half. In the previous six Big East games combined, he's scored a total of eight. The Pitt bench outscored their DePaul counterparts 33-10 through the first 20 minutes.
The 23-point halftime lead for Pitt tied for its second-highest lead in a Big East game in school history. That previous mark came in a 24-point lead against Rutgers in 2010. Had it not been for a three-pointer at the buzzer from DePaul's Moses Morgan, it would have been a new record.
Pitt opened up the second half with a 6-0 run, forcing DePaul head coach Oliver Purnell to call an early full timeout. Things didn't change much, as DePaul started the second half, shooting just 1-9.
Pitt hit a four-minute stretch where they fell back into the habit of committing turnovers. Four in a four-minute stretch couple only lead to two DePaul points. A three-pointer from Patterson led to a 71-37 Pitt lead, just eight minutes into the second half.
Then, with the game hitting under ten minutes, players who had been quiet in recent games--Wright and Zanna--finished with spectacular plays. Wright took a layup on his own, Zanna with a dunk. Pitt led 78-41 approaching the seven-minute mark.
Even though the Panthers were pushing a couple other school-marks--(most points scored in a Big East regulation game--98 vs. DePaul in 2008), the players said there was never intent to run up the score, or even get 100 points. Most of the players didn't know how many points they had until it was all over.
"I didn't even know we had 93, to be honest," Wright said. "We're just trying to finish the game."
Purnell didn't take it as Pitt running the score up on his team. He felt Pitt played a complete game.
"I thought Pittsburgh was really ready," Purnell said. "I thought they did what makes them a good team. I thought they were pretty good, and I thought we were awful."