Record-setting first-half shooting leads Pitt to big win over Howard


By Jeremy Tepper | Staff Writer

Junior shooting guard Cam Wright scored the first points of the game off a midrange jump shot, and the Pitt men’s basketball team (3-0) didn’t look back, shooting a school record 81 percent (17-21) in the first half en route to a 84-52 victory over Howard (2-3) at the Peterson Events Center on Sunday. 

It was evident from the very beginning that Howard was thoroughly overmatched. The Panthers scored the first nine points of the game and went on an 18-1 run, working their way into high-percentage shots with ease. 

Pitt’s offensive execution was nearly spotless in the first half as the Panthers recorded assists on 13-of-17 made shots and made 6-of-8 3-pointers. The Panthers had little trouble slicing through Howard’s defense, crisply passing into open shots in transition and in offensive sets.

Head coach Jamie Dixon made it clear that Pitt was successful on offense because of execution, not just because they were simply making shots.

“When you shoot 81 percent in the first half, I guess you’re doing a pretty good job of shot selection and decision making,” Dixon said.

For the game, Pitt shot 58 percent on 29-for-50 shooting and 53.3 percent from three on 8-of-15 attempts. The Panthers totaled 20 assists, which led to the vast majority of their 29 baskets.  

Pitt’s high-percentage shooting from behind the 3-point line was a vast change from its 75-54 victory over Fresno State, when the Panthers shot 0-for-11 from three.

“Last game we couldn’t find the touch. Today we found it,” redshirt senior forward Lamar Patterson said. “We were just feeling it. We had a lot of unselfish players who were driving and kicking. We just did our job and knocked them down.”

Patterson led the Panthers’ efforts, scoring 20 points on 7-for-11 shooting and made 4-of-5 3-pointers. Patterson also grabbed five rebounds and dished out four assists. 

Wright was not surprised by Patterson’s efforts.

“He can score the ball. Lamar Patterson can score the ball,” Wright said. “I see it every day. Lamar’s a great player. He works hard. He deserves it.”

Besides Patterson, eight other players registered points. Freshman forward Michael Young had 11 points, Wright had nine, and sophomore guard James Robinson, freshman forward Jamel Artis and sophomore guard/forward Durand Johnson all scored eight. 

Going into the game, Howard head coach Kevin Nickelberry believed that Pitt’s forwards were the strength of the team. Pitt, it turns out, can score in a number of ways. 

“Bigs can’t beat us tonight,” Nickelberry said. “The guards have to beat us. And their guards killed us tonight.”

Nickelberry’s team was successful in limiting Pitt’s interior players, holding senior forward Talib Zanna and junior forward Derrick Randall to four points and 10 rebounds combined. The Bison’s efforts were fruitless, however, as Pitt’s guards scored with ease.

“We tried to cut off the head of the dragon, but there were more parts to the dragon than I thought,” Nickelberry said.

Offensively, Howard was clearly rattled by Pitt’s defense and turned the ball over on its first three possessions while the Bison continuously forced up poor shots. 

For most of the game, Pitt stuck to its traditional man-to-man defense. Not until the second half did Dixon finally work in extensive zone looks, opposite to the Fresno State game when Dixon rode his zone defense to numerous forced turnovers and overall discomfort for the opponent.

Despite having great success using zone in the previous game, Patterson maintains that Pitt will primarily use man-to-man defense going forward.

“We’re a man team. We like to get after it in man,” Patterson said.