Men’s basketball: Tennessee hands Pitt first loss of season

By Alex Oltmanns

The Pitt men’s basketball team jumped out to a 10-0 start this season behind strong rebounding… The Pitt men’s basketball team jumped out to a 10-0 start this season behind strong rebounding and defense.

But Saturday against No. 13 Tennessee at the Consol Energy Center, not only did the Volunteers outrebound the No. 3 Panthers, but they consistently beat Pitt’s defense en route to an 83-76 win in the SEC Big East Invitational.

Tennessee (7-0) out-rebounded Pitt (10-1) 34-32 and shot an impressive 56.3 percent from the field as opposed to Pitt’s 40.7 percent.

“They beat us at our own game,” Pitt head coach Jamie Dixon said after the game.

“They came out and played aggressive from the jump,” Pitt guard Brad Wanamaker said after the game. “We came out lackadaisical.”

The Volunteers were led by junior guard Scotty Hopson’s 27 points, and for large stretches in the game it seemed like Hopson could score at will.

Hopson got Tennessee off to a quick start, going 5-for-6 from the field, including 3-for-3 from three-point range to stake the Volunteers to a 28-17 lead with just over nine minutes to play in the first half.

“Scotty was special,” Tennessee head coach Bruce Pearl said after the game. “You can see his maturity and focus…He’s playing like a potential NBA guy.”

Trailing 37-25 at halftime, the Panthers came out strong to begin the second half and a Gil Brown fast break dunk pulled them with nine at 47-38 and seemed to give them momentum.

But Hopson responded with an easy basket followed by completing a three point play that quieted the crowd and began a Tennessee 14-2 run that put them ahead 61-40, essentially putting the game out of reach.

After the game when asked if it was his best game to date, Hopson said, “Probably so. I was trying to be in attack-mode all game.”

In a foul-filled game that had three Tennessee players foul out and four Pitt players with four or more fouls, the Panthers couldn’t take advantage of those fouls by converting at the free throw line.

Pitt shot 25-42 (59.5 percent) from the line while the Volunteers were 22-30 (73.3 percent).

“We didn’t make our free throws, they did,” Dixon said.

Pitt had two comeback runs, and was even able to cut the Volunteers’ lead to nine, but the Panthers’ late efforts weren’t enough to overcome the deficit.

Wanamaker led the Panthers in scoring with 21 points and nine assists while Gil Brown chipped in with 13.

The Panthers will now look to bounce back from their first loss of the season next Saturday at 7 p.m. against University of Maryland Eastern Shore.