In order to defeat Lehigh on Wednesday night, Pittsburgh used some basic fundamental basketball principles.
Good shot selection, converting those shots, rebounds in the defensive end, creating turnovers, and overall just playing good defense. Pitt demonstrated all those things well in a 77-58 win over Lehigh.
In the process, Pitt improves to 4-0 on the season. They will take on Texas Tech on Monday, the first of two games next week as the Legends Classic continues at the Barclay Center in Brooklyn.
"We played good, solid defense in the first half," head coach Jamie Dixon said. "Some really good things started with James (Robinson) and started with Lamar (Patterson). Every game we’ve got Lamar giving other guys shots to start the game. Everybody knows we’ve had unselfish players year-in and year-out and we continue to do so. Our track record and dramatic numbers speak to that and I thought tonight was great evidence of it. We’ve been pretty consistent with playing good basketball."
For a second game in a row, Pitt got off to a great shooting in the first half. The Panthers shot 18-32 (56.3%) to start the game. Included with that 18-32, 7-14 three -pointers. There was also a decided 25-10 edge in rebounding.
Talib Zanna led the way with 23 points and 14 rebounds, already his second double-double in three starts this season. It also marked a new career-high for Zanna. His previous high was 20 points. He did that three times, including last year's win over Lehigh. It also marks Zanna's eighth career double-double.
"We are more aggressive in the first, we were doing everything right and we executed plays," Zanna said. "Second half we kind of came out slow, early in the game we picked up the pace. Lamar (Patterson) did a good job; Durand (Johnson) did a good job of making shots in the first half and second half."
Durand Johnson, coming off the bench, had one of the best three-point shooting performances in school history, on his way to 15 points. In the process, Johnson established a new career-high for three-pointers in a game. His previous high was three, set in three different games including the opener against Savannah State.
Lamar Patterson scored eight of his 17 points in heat second half, converting three of seven three-pointers.
And as if the Panthers needed one more benchmark, they got it in the form of James Robinson. Robinson finished with 11 assists and no turnovers. The school-record is 13 assists, 0 turnovers.
When you have those kind of numbers working for you, it's hard to stop.
It took the first 4:19 of the game before Lehigh would get its first points of the game, as Pitt jumped out to the early lead. An early edge on the boards, two Lehugh turnovers, and some good shot selection sparked everything for Pitt.
Zanna, who's shown his rebounding in the early part of the season, showed off his ability to hit a pair of mid-range jumpers to open the lead for Pitt.
Add to that lead, a trio of three-pointers from Johnson, all on his first three attempts of the game. His third one made it a 24-11 lead, approaching the halfway point of the first half.
Jamel Artis added another, Pitt led 28-11. Lehigh head coach Brett Reed had to call timeout.
"He was the one guy we didn't want to let go on the perimeter," Lehigh head coach Brett Reed said. "Unfortunately, we didn't adjust in time. Him and Zanna were 10-13 in the first half. We did a poor job of contesting."
Everything was clicking on all cylinders for Pitt. Even on the defensive end, when they weren't forcing turnovers or holding down the defensive rebounds, they answered Artis' three by holding Lehigh all the way to the end of the shot clock. Though the Mountain Hawks came down with the offensive board, they missed on their second scoring attempt of this possession.
Pitt answered with three more field goals, cruising to a 34-11 lead, approaching seven minutes left in the first half. Reed called another timeout, just over seven minutes left in the first half.
Shooting, rebounding, three-point shooting, coming up with turnovers, and just playing sound defense. Pitt was doing it all, on its way to a 47-23 lead at halftime.
Zanna had 12 of those 47 points, going 5-5 from the field. Johnson added 15 points on 5-6 three-pointers, hitting his first four. Johnson's five three-pointers in one half is one away from the school record of six in one half, set by Jason Maile.
"Last game I felt bad, I felt down on myself," Johnson said. "I shot 0-for-4 on the three and I really felt bad on myself. I really wanted to come out tonight and be more confident and be more shot ready. My teammates found me and I was able to knock down shots."
And if it wasn't Johnson, it was Patterson starting the second half with three-pointers on consecutive possessions.
Zanna strung together seven points in a four-minute stretch late in the half, to give I'm his career-high.
While it was a combined team effort, and a lot of the freshmen such as Josh Newkirk, Mike Young and Artis played significantly, this game showed what Pitt can be with a strong scoring presence inside (Zanna) and a hot three-point shooter, let alone both showing up in the same game.
"There have been a couple games when we’ve outscored the opponent but not doubled the score, and that’s a good problem to have," Dixon said. "We would like to play well every minute, and that’s not going to happen, but you’re striving to do so.
"We got better in the second half in some areas but it didn’t show with what we were doing with some guys. I take responsibility for that and I think I could have kept us more aggressive."