Pitt F Sam Young puts the hammer down.
For the sixth straight season, the Pitt men's basketball team opened with 10 straight wins after a 91-56 pounding on the University of Maryland-Baltimore County (UMBC) Saturday night at the Petersen Events Center
Five players scored in double figures for Pittsburgh, which tied a team record with 14 shots made from 3-point range, as 14 players saw action when Panthers coach Jamie Dixon emptied his bench. Pitt shot nearly 52 percent from 3-point range (14-for-27).
"Usually, we like to go down low and bang them up, take it slow and grind 'em up,'' Pitt senior forward Sam Young said. "But we really couldn't get it down low, because they were playing a zone. So, they kind of forced us to shoot threes a little bit. We got hot, and we kept it going.
"That was good, but the first couple shots we were kind of off. We weren't really in a rhythm, but I guess once we got into our comfort zone and they were laying back in their zone we started to hit our shots. They were pretty much open shots, because the zone was so far back.''
No. 3 Pitt (10-0) actually missed its opening five shots in the game and trailed 5-0, as UMBC (5-4) made a couple after missing its opening three shots. But then the Panthers got hot. Junior guard Jermaine Dixon, who continues to struggle from the field (2-7 overall, 1-4 in 3s), hit a runner and nailed his only trey in the game. Young basically took over after that.
Young -- who led Pitt with 19 points, three rebounds, three assists, two steals and a blocked shot, as well as two turnovers in 25 minutes -- made two short jumpers, crashed the boards for a tap-in, drilled a 3-pointer and added two free throws in a little more than five minutes.
"I just think that Pitt can definitely go far in the NCAA Tournament, but I don't want to put any pressure on Jamie, by the way,'' fifth-year UMBC coach Randy Monroe said. "I figured that we looked to play zone on them and try to slow them down, but nothing seemed to work tonight.
"We even went a couple possessions of man-to-man, but then they went inside. They have a lot of different weapons, both inside and outside. So, we said that if we're going to lose, let's lose by them beating us from the outside. And they did. They shot 52 percent from 3-point range.''
Pitt steadily increased its advantage to double figures and went as high as a 17-point lead in the first half, including at the intermission, as senior point guard Levance Fields hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer. Fields finished with 11 points, including a 3-for-3 performance from long range, four assists, a steal and just one turnover in 24 minutes.
Redshirt sophomore Gilbert Brown and freshman guard Ashton Gibbs came off the bench to score 13 points each in 19 and 11 minutes, respectively. Brown also had three rebounds, four assists and a blocked shot in 19 minutes, while Gibbs made 3 of 4 treys. Sophomore center DeJuan Blair tallied 12 points and eight rebounds with a turnover, blocked shot and a steal in 24 minutes.
"I think everybody's getting healthier,'' Young said. "I think DeJuan's getting in better shape, and Levance is getting in better shape. We're also becoming closer as a unit, and we're starting to get that chemistry that you look for as you get toward the end of the year. We're getting it now.
"(And) we're definitely coming to the point in our schedule, we're going to play Sienna ... and some good teams before we get into Big East play. And that's going to be a tough matchup every night. So, it's time for us to progress as a team, and we'll be ready to take on the Big East.''
The visiting Retrievers couldn't get any closer in the second half, as Pitt quickly moved to more than a 20-point advantage and more than 30 points late even though Pitt coach Jamie Dixon emptied his bench. Three walk-ons played with sophomore center Gary McGhee and freshman forward Nasir Robinson.
"We got a lot of guys minutes against a team that won 24 games last year,'' Dixon said. "We're a better shooting team than we've shot, but we've been taking good shots. Then zoned us almost the whole time, so it was good to make more 3-pointers than we have. And our passing was very good.''
Darryl Proctor scored 13 points to lead UMBC. Chaucey Gilliam and Matt Spadafora added 11 and 10 points, respectively, as the Retrievers used just nine players.
Pitt returns to action against Sienna Wednesday night at 9:30 at the Pete. That game will be the Panthers' first nationally-televised game this season and can be viewed on ESPN2.