Pitt flexed its bench muscle in a 95-49 win over North Florida at the Petersen Events Center on Saturday afternoon.
Though Brad Wanamaker (17 points, six rebounds) and Ashton Gibbs (12 points, six assists) have contributed heavily in each one the three regular season games, the starters turned things over to the bench players. Pitt's bench outscored their North Florida counterparts 47-17. Freshman J.J. Moore led all scorers with 19 points. Dante Taylor had a game-high 11 rebounds.
"We played hard, we executed well," Pitt head coach Jamie Dixon said afterwards. "I thought we ran our offense pretty well. We got good shots which enabled us to hit the offensive boards.
North Florida had a short turnaround in getting to Pittsburgh for this game. The Ostreys had a 9 pm tip-off with Florida State last night in Tallahassee, losing 75-55. They then got on a pair of Leer Jets and flew to Pittsburgh after the game. They got in to Pittsburgh at 2:30 this morning, and were at their hotel by 3:00. Head coach Matthew Driscoll--a Pittsburgh native, and former head coach at Northgate High School and LaRoche College--said the short turnaround was tight, but he was pleased with how his team responded.
"If you researched it, 19 hours between tip-offs is probably the fastest regular-season, non-tournament back-to-back games in the history of college basketball," Driscoll said. "I thought we had seven pretty good hours (of sleep). The Leer Jets are pretty nice; you can sleep on them. They got us here pretty quick. I thought we had a pretty good turnaround."
It's the second big game for Moore, who did not play in the season-opener against Rhode Island. Moore also grabbed eight rebounds; seven of which were offensive. Only Taylor and Talib Zanna (9) had more rebounds than he did for the game.
When he was recruiting Moore, Dixon obviously liked Moore's scoring ability. Moore wasn't much of a rebounder in high school. Dixon saw something he felt he could develop in him to get him stronger on the offensive boards, which would ultimately lead to more production. Three games into his collegiate career, it seems to be working.
"He wasn't as good of an offensive rebounder as he should have been," Dixon said. "That was the thing we really emphasized this summer with him. I think he's really catching on to going to the offensive glass. Seven offensive rebounds is a good way to score points."
In addition to Moore and Taylor, Travon Woodall saw 24 minutes off the bench. Gibbs is the only player who had more minutes than he did. Part of it was because of the lineup rotations Dixon used. With Woodall at the point guard, he's able to slide Gibbs over to the two and Wanamaker over to the three. It keeps Gibbs and Wanamaker on the floor longer, but keeps a true point guard on the floor in Woodall, as Dixon rotates in other players for Gibbs and Wanamaker. By the time Woodall is ready to come out, he's back to his original starting lineup of Gibbs and Wanamaker at the guard position.
Woodall pushed the tempo of the game--as he has been asked to do--and is a much improved three-point shooter this season already. He finished the game with 10 points and five assists.
"Travon, I thought, played tremendous," Dixon added. "His numbers are good, but I thought he played even better than his numbers indicated."
While Taylor and Zanna went to work on the rebounding, Pitt was able to build a 41-14 lead in the first half. The only threat they got from North Florida was a 7-0 run in the last three minutes of the half. Dixon was forced to call timeout with 1:33 to go in the half. As he calmed the players down, Pitt answered with a Lamar Patterson jumper and a putback by Moore off a miss by Talib Zanna. Pitt led 48-21 at the half.
Pitt went deeper into its bench in the second half, but continued to own the glass on both the offensive and defensive ends. Patterson--who came up with four points and four rebounds, went down aggravated his ankle and was held out for a significant part of the second half. Dixon said it was only precautionary, and wasn't sure if it was the same one that kept him out of the first exhibition game against Northwood two weeks ago.
"I was really having a hard time finding guys to put in at the wings," Dixon added. "I was glad Nick did a good job when he got in there. I probably should have put him in earlier."
Pitt built its biggest lead at 68-27 with just over 10 minutes to play, including a four and a half minute stretch where the Ostreys didn't score. North Florida had back-to-back scores from Parker Smith, who locked down a jumper and a three-pointer on consecutive possessions, but that was the only gasp North Florida had in the second half. Pitt went deeper to its bench, playing J.J. Richardson 14 minutes, and even brought in walk-on guard Nick Rivers at the 5:43 mark. Rivers knocked in a three-pointer at the 5:03 mark to put Pitt up 79-39, and they were able to keep the lead above 40 the rest of the way.
Coming off the 42-point win over Illinois-Chicago on Wednesday night, Pitt has back-to-back 40-point wins since they defeated Arkansas Pine Bluff (45) and Norfolk State (40) on November 30 and December 3 of 2002.