Men’s basketball: Taylor leads Panthers to win

By Kelly Flanigan

The Pitt men’s basketball team won last night, but had the Panthers capitalized on some early… The Pitt men’s basketball team won last night, but had the Panthers capitalized on some early missed opportunities, they might have tripled Delaware State’s score.

No. 3 Pitt (10-0) handled Delaware State by a score of 70-42 at the Petersen Events Center Wednesday night, nearly doubling up points on the undersized Hornets.

Gary McGhee started the game off with a thunderous dunk, followed by a twelve-footer made by Talib Zanna to give Pitt momentum early in the game.

Delaware State guard Desi Washington, who scored nine points, quieted the Panthers’ momentum with a 3-point shot. He was three for six from beyond the arc on the night.

Hornet guard Jordan Lawson was the only Delaware State player who scored in double digits, finishing with 11 points. He entered the game from the bench. Guard Brandon Oliver and forward Terron Stowe both finished with six points on the game.

Knowing prior to the game that their opponent was a very strong 3-point shooting team, Panthers head coach Jamie Dixon took a timeout in order to emphasize the importance of defense.

“At the timeout, Coach told us ‘Don’t let anybody shoot over you, keep your hands up,’ and that’s what we did from that point on throughout the whole game,” freshman J.J. Moore said after the game.

A series of missed layups cost the Panthers some early momentum, and as a result the score remained tied until the last eight minutes of the first half.

Cue Dante Taylor.

In a game in which regular stand-outs like Ashton Gibbs, Brad Wanamaker and McGhee were relatively quiet, Taylor stepped up to fill in.

With a forceful put-back bucket, he sparked the beginning of what would be a 13-0 Pitt run with just under 10 minutes to go in the first half.

Taylor, who finished with his first career double-double, collected 14 points and pulled down 16 rebounds. He had a distinct height advantage over all of the Delaware State forwards.

“This was definitely the biggest height advantage I’ve had so far,” Taylor said after the game. “I’m definitely more comfortable. I’m working hard in practice and it’s carrying over. I know I’m not going to be in there for the whole game, so I have to make the most of the time when I am.”

Dixon has been very encouraged by the production he sees from Taylor.

“He is doing a good job of finishing around the basket, and making free throws. He had a great freshman year and he’s improved from there,” he said. “It’s great to see his development. He only played 15 minutes. He is a great kid and a great player, too,” Dixon said after the game.

Moore was another stand-out player for the Panthers. Coming off the bench, Moore played 19 minutes, finished with 10 points and played the kind of defense Pitt is known for.

“Coach always told me to focus on my defense, and I’m doing that in practice and playing hard. I’m just trying to earn trust in coach and keep getting minutes,” he said.

His ten points seemed to come on some of the most exciting plays of the game. Just before halftime, he scored on a one-handed floater in the lane.

With 12 minutes remaining in the second half, he slammed the ball home in an acrobatic dunk on a fast break that was a result of his own steal.

“I just got out here and try to do as much as I can. Coach says my scoring will come to me, so I just do everything opposite of scoring,” Moore said. “I try to give a boost to rebounding, passing — and scoring will naturally come to me.”

Though Taylor and Moore were the only Panthers in double figures — they combined for 24 points total — Pitt’s scoring was well distributed as it has been all season.

Seven different Panthers contributed six or more points. Gibbs finished with nine, and Wanamaker added eight.

Delaware State head coach Greg Jackson recognized the potential of the Panther squad.

“This team was as good as advertised. They are extremely well-coached, and they did an outstanding job of taking us away from the things that we strive to do,” he said after the game. “They are talented in so many different ways. They can beat you in so many areas.”

The Panthers will return to action Saturday at the Consol Energy Center to take on No. 11 Tennessee in what could be their toughest game of the season so far. Tip-off is set for 3:15 p.m.