The hallmarks of Pittsburgh basketball under coach Jamie Dixon have been hard-nosed defense and physical play and, in recent years, the experience of Ashton Gibb and Brad Wanamaker in the backcourt. But the Panthers' 79-70 win over Maryland in the 2K Sports Classic tonight at the Garden showed they are going to be a team with plenty of scoring coming from the frontcourt, too.
Asked about the 14-point, 12-rebound performance of Talib Zanna, a 6-9 redshirt freshman from Nigeria, Dixon chose to talk about how balanced his team has become. "We have a lot of good players," Dixon said. "They're young, but they're good."
Besides Zanna, who starts at forward, Dixon has 6-5 freshman Lamar Patterson, who had 7 points against Maryland, and 6-9 sophomore forward Dante Taylor, who scored 8 points. Dixon praised the defensive energy of 6-5 Nasir Robinson, and Brooklyn point guard Travon Woodall provides depth in the backcourt. Add starters Gilbert Brown and and Gary McGhee, who goes 6-11, and Pitt looks like a powerful team that will beat people up.
Maryland's 6-9, 260-pound Jordan Williams found that out. "We doubled him to take him out of his rhythm," Dixon said of Williams, who finished with 14 points and 8 rebounds. "He may be one of the best low-post scorers in the country. He gets a lot off the glass, but he only got one offensive rebound, which was key for us."
The Big East coaches voted Pitt the preseason conference favorite for a reason, and it looks like the Panthers have the weapons to reach the Final Four in Houston, especially if the freshmen in the frontcourt fulfill their promise.