by Nate Barnes
Associated Press Writer
PITTSBURGH (AP) – Head coach Kevin Nickelberry wanted to limit Pittsburgh forward Talib Zanna’s impact against his Howard Bison in Sunday’s game.
And limit Zanna the Bison did, but that didn’t help in the game’s outcome as Pitt beat Howard 84-52.
“We had to just battle him,” Nickelberry said. “We just wanted to use our two-headed monster and try to get him in foul trouble.”
Nickelberry’s two-headed monster is 6-foot-9-inch Oliver Ellison and 6-foot-10-inch Marcel Boyd. They were the largest players Zanna faced yet this season, after he dominated an undersized and undermanned Fresno State front line Tuesday with a 19-point, 10-rebound double-double.
The Bison cared so much about surrounding and harassing Zanna that they played a zone defense for the first time this season.
“Bigs can’t beat us tonight,” Nickelberry told his team. “The guards have to beat us. And their guards killed us.”
Zanna got in foul trouble early, according to Nickelberry’s plan, and played just six minutes in the first half. Zanna scored only four points on three shot attempts, and pulled in just three rebounds.
It was Pitt’s guards, led by Lamar Patterson, who did in the Bison.
Patterson helped Pitt to jump out to a 9-0 lead when he fed freshman forward Michael Young for a dunk and later sank a three-pointer.
Patterson shot 4-of-4 from deep in the first half, 5-of-6 overall, and entered halftime with a game-high 16 points. His performance led the best shooting percentage in a half in school history, as Pitt made 81 percent of its field goals and opened up a 48-24 halftime lead.
“Last game we just couldn’t find the touch,” Patterson said. “Today, we found it. That’s just how it is, some games it goes in, some games it doesn’t.”
Patterson finished with 20 points on 7-of-11 shooting, next to five rebounds and four assists.
“I’m a versatile player,” Patterson said. “I like to show different aspects of my game every time out.”
Also on the perimeter, guards James Robinson, Cam Wright, Durand Johnson and Chris Jones combined to score 32 points.
“It was a really good performance by us,” Dixon said. “The starting guards especially. James, Cameron and Lamar were really good.”
Good shot selection proved to be a key.
“I think we took a lot of bad shots in the last game and missed some open ones,” Dixon said. “Tonight we took almost all the good threes, and I think that was a big part of it. It usually comes down to shot selection.”
The Panthers cooled off in the second half, but still shot 58 percent from the field. Defensively, Pitt held Howard to only 17 field goals and 36.2 percent shooting.
Michael Young found the most success of any “big” Sunday, with 11 points on 4-of-4 shooting. Other than Young, though, it was the play of Pitt’s perimeter assets that helped counter the Zanna’s ineffectiveness.
“We tried to cut off what we thought was the head of the dragon,” Nickelberry said. “But obviously there were more parts to the dragon than I thought.”