Panthers keep composure late to win at Maryland


By Nate Barnes | Sports Editor

COLLEGE PARK, MD. — Nearly 12 minutes remained on the clock in the second half at the Comcast Center in College Park, Md., and the No. 20 Pitt Panthers built their largest lead of the day with two free throws by redshirt senior forward Lamar Patterson to go up by 13 points.

The 13-point lead turned to just seven in two minutes after a 3-pointer by Nick Faust, before Jake Layman scored in transition and made his and-one try.

Ten minutes remained in a hostile environment that redshirt junior Cameron Wright called “dark,” but the Panthers chugged along to an 83-79 victory. The Terrapins attempted to throw a zone press at the Panthers, which took all of about 10 seconds for Patterson to break through and lay in the ball.

Patterson busted the full-court zone defense after a Maryland miss and found Wright for a layup to push Pitt’s lead back to 12, seconds after it was nearly halved. The run was a small part of his game-high 28 points, seven assists and seven rebounds.

“Between me, James [Robinson] and Cam, it’s pretty hard to press us because we pass the ball. We’re great decision makers,” Patterson said.

When the Terrapins attempted to apply pressure, Pitt (18-2, 6-1 ACC) was prepared behind Patterson and steady-handed sophomore point guard Robinson, who played in front of friends and family.

“Every day in practice we go through our press offense,” Robinson said. “While it might seem repetitive, it might be a little boring, it always prepares us.”

Robinson, a native of nearby Mitchellville, Md., and a DeMatha Catholic alumnus, played in his home state for the first time at the collegiate level and scored 13 points. The Panthers ran their morning shootaround at Robinson’s alma mater.

“Our coaches put us in positions to succeed, and they kind of make our job a lot easier, the way they prepare us for the game.“

Maryland continued to apply pressure on the Panthers throughout the rest of the game and cut Pitt’s lead to five points multiple times. Each time, however, Pitt responded with free throws or a defensive stop.

“That’s all about our relationships,” Wright said. “We all trust in each other. We all know that we all can make plays. We all know that we can depend on each other.”

“When it comes down to the crucial moments, we all have faith in every guy on our team.”

The Terrapins (11-9, 3-4 ACC) began the game strong and held a lead for the first 10-plus minutes of the game, something head coach Jamie Dixon knew would happen.

“We talked about them getting off to a good start because they’re going to be out there and aggressive, coming after us,” Dixon said. “From Maryland’s start, we took care of things and then did a great job and withstood a lot of runs, furious runs from them.”

Likewise, Patterson anticipated that the Panthers would not have as easy of a go in College Park as they did in Pittsburgh, when Pitt won by 20.

“We beat ‘em pretty good at home, and a good team like Maryland should take that as a chance to get back at a team,” Patterson said. “That’s what they did. They got back at us.”

But the early Maryland lead peaked at seven points before crumbling as Pitt took control of the game with a pair of free throws from Patterson. The senior’s first points of the game gave Pitt its first lead, and Maryland never took it back.

“We withstood a hard-playing, aggressive, physical, tough team who’s very good and hard to guard,” Dixon said. “They just kept battling.”

Pitt’s next game comes Monday night against No. 18 Duke and is only the second game they’ve played against a ranked opponent. But for now, at least, the Panthers are happy to have avoided an upset in unfriendly confines.

“I’m proud of these guys,” Patterson said. “We held our ground and came out with a W.”