Another Big Win For Pitt

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Another stellar effort from Lamar Patterson--24 points, five rebounds and six assists. Talib Zanna adds a double-double of 16 points and 12 rebounds. Durand Johnson's career-best 8-9 performance from the free throw line, highlights his 11 points.

Pitt improved to 3-0 in league play with a 80-65 win over Wake Forest on Saturday.

The Panthers improve to 15-1 overall, while Wake Forest drops to 11-5 overall, 1-2 in the ACC.

With the 3-0 start in ACC play, its Pitt's best in-conference start since the 2010-11 season, when they started off 7-0 in the Big East.

"In the half court, we were really good," head coach Jamie Dixon said. "That set the tone for us. We took care of the ball. We rebounded. It was a good all-around performance against a good team. Our field goal percentage defense has been good this year, and was good today."

Lamar Patterson cruised to another impressive outing, 27 points, five rebounds and six assists. It's the sixth-time, and seventh for his career, that Patterson has finished with at least 20 points in a game. Talib Zanna finished with his fifth double-double of the season, and tenth of his career, with 16 points and 12 rebounds.

Devin Thomas led Wake Forest with 17 points and nine rebounds, followed by Codi Miller-McIntyre with 10.

< p>Pitt cruised to an early 8-1 lead, shooting 66 percent from the field to start the game. On defense, they came up with two Wake Forest turnovers, and held the Demon Deacons to 0-5 shooting in the first four minutes of the game. Head coach Jeff Bzdelic was forced to burn a 30-second timeout, after Cameron Wright took an inside pass from Patterson, taking it for an easy layup.

"We want to be the first ones to throw the punch," Patterson said. "We did a good job in out half court defense today. We're just playing Pitt basketball right now."

Wake Forest did get on the board following that possession on a three-pointer from Travis McKie. It took the Demon Deacons nearly five minutes to convert their first field goal of the game.

Bzdelic called another timeout in hit he half this time at the 13:09 mark, as Pitt opened a 16-6 lead. Interestingly, after the previous timeout, Pitt went to their bench. The freshmen have been a big story this season. From the time they came in on this substation--Josh Newkirk and Jamel Artis made an impact.

On his first shift, Newkirk took a ball end-to-end. Though his layup missed, Patterson was there for the putback.

On Pitt's next series, Newkirk made a no-look bounce pass to a wide-open Zanna, who finished the play with a dunk. Zanna finished the next series with another dunk, this time off a feed from Cameron Wright.

Pitt made it look easy, assisting on 19 of 26 field goals for the game. Patterson and guard James Robinson said it's not so much easy, as it is part of the flow they develop from practice.

"I think it's definitely a mindset," Robinson said. "We have a team full of unselfish players. A lot of it comes from Lamar and Talib. They're two of the most unselfish players on the team."

Despite Wake's defensive game plan, Pitt was finding a way to make that extra pass--easily--to set up some kind of an easy shot. Bzdelik was forced to call another timeout, his team down 18-10 with 11:14 left in the first half.

Thomas gave his team a little lift. A pair of buckets, sandwiched around a defensive rebound, Thomas was fouled on his second score. With the and-one, Thomas cut it to a 23-16 lead for Pitt.

Pitt added a three-pointer from Durand Johnson, but Wake was able to cut into that deficit. Thomas added another basket underneath for Wake, making it a 28-21 Pitt lead. But, Patterson was able to answer for Pitt, putting Pitt back up 31-22, approaching the four-minute mark of the first half.

Pitt held Wake to just 25.9 (7-27) percent shooting in the first half. Wake was able to get to the line, but was converting 65 percent of its chances there. Combine that with Pitt's 50 percent shooting, eight assists on 14 field goals, and its usual free throw shooting. It all led to a 40-26 lead for Pitt at halftime.

Patterson led Pitt with 13 points in the first half, which included a wide-open three-pointer on Pitt's final possession of the half. Newkirk--on the floor with Robinson--had a good look at the three, but made the extra pass to the open Patterson.

Things didn't slow down for Pitt in the second half. They extended their lead to 53-37, just five minutes in.

No to mention, foul trouble hit Wake. Both Coron Williams and Devin Thomas picked up third fouls early in the second half. Bzdelik went to Arnaud Adala Moto, any he too was in the far with three fouls.

Williams, who entered the game fifth in the ACC in three-point shooting percentage, picked up his fourth foul at the under-12 mark. He stayed in after he picked up his third. Bzdelik had to send him to the bench. Thomas eventually fouled out, but still led the Demon Deacons in both points and rebounds.

Meanwhile, everything continued to click for Pitt. A lot of it just looked like simple hustle. Jamel Artis chased down an offensive rebounding. In one swift movement, he dished inside to Zanna, who had an easy basket. On the next possession, Cameron Wright chased down a loose ball to maintain possession for Pitt. He pushed the ball, also feeding to Zanna, who again had an easy basket. Zanna was fouled, and following the and-one, Pitt was up 63-48, just a little over 11 minutes left.

A little hustle, and just some basic fundamental basketball.

"We've improved, we've gotten better," Dixon added. "The team has improved dramatically. Our execution of plays has gotten better."

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