Panthers get to rough start, bounce back in second half

By Adam Littman

For the fifth straight game, the Pitt men’s basketball team didn’t really show up until the… For the fifth straight game, the Pitt men’s basketball team didn’t really show up until the second half. The South Florida Bulls (6-10, 1-3 Big East) held their own at the Petersen Events Center, trailing the No. 1 Panthers by only four points at the half. The two were even tied at 30 with just less than four minutes to go. While the Panthers (16-0, 4-0 Big East) shot an impressive 50 percent from the field in the first half, the Bulls were even better, connecting on 57 percent of their shots. ‘Our defense was a little sluggish,’ said Pitt center DeJuan Blair. The Bulls also hit 8-of-9 free throws in the first half, while the Panthers only made 4-of-9 and shot 63 percent from 3-point range. For the Panthers, it was the continuance of a could-be dangerous trend. In its last five games, Pitt’s biggest lead at the half has been five, which was against St. Johns. In all five of those games, the Panthers at least doubled the point differential between them and their opponent by the final whistle. In all but one of those games, Pitt increased its field goal shooting percentage in the second half, while holding its opponent to either the same or a lower point total. But with games against Louisville, Syracuse and West Virginia next on the schedule, the Panthers can’t just expect to dangle the possibility of an upset over another team’s head for an entire half. Eventually, someone is going to grab it. Plus, being the top-ranked team in the nation already has teams pumped up to play Pitt. Dixon moves up on all-time wins list With the victory last night, Pitt coach Jamie Dixon moved in sole-possession of third place on Pitt’s all-time wins list. Dixon is 148-40 in his five-plus years as Panthers head coach. Last night he passed Paul Evans (1986-1994). Next up for Dixon is Robert Timmons (1953-1968), who was 174-189 at his time coaching the Panthers. The top spot is a bit further away. Dr. H.C. Carlson (1922-1953) is the all-time wins leader at Pitt, going 367-247 during his tenure. Career-high for Fields Levance Fields already leads the Big East in assists with an average of 6.7 per game. After last night, that number is going to go up. Fields recorded a career-high 13 assists, while only turning over the ball once. ‘Guys were hitting their shots, and as a result, I was able to get all those assists,’ said Fields. He also tossed in 11 points, shooting 3-of-6 from beyond the arc. Fields impressed not only Dixon, who said Fields made ‘great decisions all the way through,’ but South Florida coach Stan Heath also talked highly of the senior point guard. ‘Fields is such a court general out there,’ said Heath. ‘I don’t think he made a mistake out there all night.’ Game Delayed Because of Weather Last night Pitt took part in the incredibly rare basketball game delayed because of the weather. The game was delayed roughly 20 minutes because the Bulls, as well as the referees, couldn’t get to the Pete on time in the snow-clogged traffic. While the Bulls had difficulty getting to the arena, Pitt fans made it out in droves. ‘The most amazing thing of the day is that we had that many people at this game tonight, considering the traffic,’ said Dixon. ‘It continues to amaze me.’