PITTSBURGH (AP) – Cameron Wright scored 14 points to lead five Pittsburgh players in double figures in an 85-68 victory over Loyola Marymount at the Petersen Events Center on Friday night.
Head coach Jamie Dixon was most impressed with Pitt’s unselfishness, which led to 23 assists on the Panthers’ 35 made field goals.
“We took care of the ball,” Dixon said. “We shared it all the way through. 23 assists is an exciting number.”
Pitt (9-0) opened the second half on a 12-4 run that gave the Panthers a 52-33 lead. Loyola Marymount cut the deficit to 14 with over eight minutes to play, but Lamar Patterson pushed the lead back to 18 with two layups after a timeout.
The Panthers extended their lead to as much as 22 in the final minutes.
Loyola Marymount (6-3) hung tight with Pitt through the game’s first eight-plus minutes, and trailed only 19-17 at the under-12 media timeout. While the Lions were close, head coach Max Good wasn’t confident that would last.
“I didn’t think we were very judicious with our shot selection,” Good said. “When you play against a team like Pitt, you feel like you’re walking in a minefield. You just kind of have to pick your poison.”
The poison for Pitt early was allowing the Lions to get their offense going.
“We let them get confidence,” sophomore guard Durand Johnson said. “They were making shots.”
Dixon echoed Johnson, noting the way Loyola Marymount guard Evan Payne was able to establish his offense early.
“We made a mistake defensively,” Dixon said. “He gets a bucket then he hits a three the next time. That’s what we’ve gotta understand, we can’t let them get in a rhythm. We can’t give him a free one.”
But Pitt closed the first half on a 21-12 run to gain separation.
“You can only get up so much in ten minutes,” Dixon said. “You’ve gotta chip away, possession-by-possession.”
Pitt’s plan of chipping away was to get easy looks at the basket, and the Panthers succeeded. Pitt shot 58.3 percent from the field.
“The main thing was to get layups and get to the basket,” Dixon said. “We did a pretty good job of that.”
The Lions had four of their own hit double-digit scoring, paced by Anthony Ireland’s game-high 20 points. Evan Payne added 16, Ben Dickinson 10, and Gabe Levin posted a double-double with 14 points and a game-high 14 rebounds.
Behind Levin the Lions outrebounded the Panthers 37-35, a silver lining for head coach Max Good against the loss.
“Coach stressed that they’d be really physical with us,” Ireland said. “They had five guys on the boards every time.”