Created on Tuesday, 13 November 2012 05:08 Written by Megan Boyle / For The Pitt News
The Pitt men’s basketball team began its run in the National Invitation Tournament Season Tip-Off with a resounding victory to advance to the quarterfinals of the early-season competition.
Having won their season opener against Mount St. Mary’s last Friday in easy fashion, the Panthers repeated the feat on Monday night at the Petersen Events Center, pouncing on the Fordham Rams for an 86-51 triumph.
Pitt head coach Jamie Dixon said he was pleased with his team’s performance, and he noted how well the Panthers took care of the ball.
“I’m excited by the way we played,” Dixon said after the game. “Twenty-four assists, six turnovers — that’s the thing that really stands out. I thought we defended well.”
Fordham handled the opening tip-off, but that was the only thing the Rams controlled.
Pitt scored the game’s first seven points with a dunk by freshman center Steven Adams, as well as a 3-pointer and a layup by senior point guard Tray Woodall.
The Panthers never relinquished that lead.
The strong start set the tone for the first half, as Pitt took a commanding 37-18 lead over Fordham into the break. The star of the half — and of the game — was Pitt forward J.J. Moore, who scored 12 points in the game’s opening 20 minutes off the bench and added eight more points after the intermission.
Moore said he enjoys being an impact substitution for Coach Dixon.
“I definitely like my role coming off the bench,” Moore said. “I feel like I give the team a lot of energy. I think it’s helping us out very much.”
Dixon compared Moore to former Pitt player Sam Young, saying that the growth in the junior stems from a rise in confidence.
“I think his confidence is just soaring,” Dixon said. “He’s really getting better and taking pride in what he’s doing.”
Several other Panthers fed off Moore’s performance, especially Woodall, who finished in double digits for the second straight game with 16 points, and Adams, who tallied 13 points and five rebounds.
For the second straight game, Pitt scored numerous easy buckets on fast-break opportunities after a defensive stop. The Panthers finished with a total of 28 points scored off turnovers.
Woodall said that getting steals has been a focus for the Pitt defense early this season.
“The guards want to get up and pressure a little more, because you’ve got big guys inside that can alter shots,” he said. “We just want to make sure that we pressure the ball and try to force more turnovers. We’re forcing a lot more turnovers this year.”
Pitt won’t have long to celebrate its second victory of the season.
The Panthers host a talented Lehigh team Tuesday night at 9 p.m. at the Petersen Events Center with a trip to the NIT Season Tip-Off semifinals next week at Madison Square Garden on the line.