He scored Pitt’s first points of the season on a pair of free throws following a nifty drive along the baseline. It was the kind of move he might have bypassed until much later in the game a year ago, when he often didn’t look for his shot until after getting his teammates heavily involved.
That won’t be a problem this year. Pitt finished with a respectable 16 assists on 26 baskets.
“Everything looked good,” Patterson said. “A lot of great assists, lot of good shooters … I just go out there and do everything I need.”
The opener is the start of an ambitious nonconference schedule for the Tigers, who lost four starters off a team that went 19-15 a year ago and finished third in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. Savannah State will also play Florida, Baylor, Utah and Miami among others.
Challenging environments are nothing new for the Tigers, but coach Horace Broadnax thought his players might have been a little overwhelmed early on.
“We came out kind of slow and sluggish and nervous,” Broadnax said. “(Pitt) set the tone going to the basket and we didn’t.”
Savannah State gave away size at nearly every position and struggled to get off clean looks. The result was a mismatch. The Tigers shot just 4 of 23 (17 percent) during an ugly first half that allowed the Panthers to open a 40-13 lead. The 13 points allowed by Pitt were the third-fewest by the Panthers in a half in the last 63 years, though things loosened up a bit in the second half as Dixon went deep into his bench to give his newcomers extended playing time.
The result was 16 turnovers and a steady stream to the free throw line as both teams adjusted to a new emphasis by officials to take away contact in the lane, which led to a combined 52 free throws and 48 fouls.
“We’re going to have to cut down on the fouls,” Dixon said. “We’re going to have to adjust.”