Back On The Winning Track

The Panthers put it all together in a 89-69 win over St. John's on Wednesday night; arguably its most complete team effort this season highlighted by several individual performances.

Pitt put up one of its finest shooting performances in school history, and put all facets of the game together on defense and on the boards, in a 89-69 win over St. John's Wednesday. Pitt improves to 16-14 On the season, 5-12 in the Big East. St. John's falls to 13-17 overall, 6-11 in the Big East.

Ashton Gibbs led four Pitt players in double-figures with 19. Dante Taylor added a caree-high 17 points on a perfect 8-8 from the field. The school record is 11-11. J.J. Moore added 14 points off the bench, and Lamar Patterson added 13. St. John's got a game-high 21 from D'Angelo Harrison, followed by 18 from Phil Greene and 17 from God's Gift Achiuwa.

"I'm really happy with how we attacked their matchup zone," head coach Jamie Dixon said. "We took good shots consistently, only one or two questionable. I feel like we're playing better basketball.

"There were a lot of good performances today. Travon got us going ; JJ, Lamar, Nasir and Dante, obviously. There were a lot of good performances. I was really happy with our overall production. It's a good sign for us."

Pitt's school-record for field goal percentage in a game is .674. Tonight, the Panthers settled for a .633 (31-49) performances.

Pitt jumped out to a 38-33 halftime thanks to eight points apiece from Gibbs, Taylor and Patterson. Pitt shot 58.3% (14-24) overall in the first half, including a 5-11 (45.5%) from three-point range. St. John's did get 10 points off nine Pitt turnovers.

Taylor made his second start in as many games, and was a big factor early on getting a pair of putbacks. St. John's jumped out to an early 12-7 lead behind three-pointers from Greene and Harrison. Taylor's second putback of the game tied it at 14-14 apiece. Cameron Wright came on to replace Woodall, and hit a three on his second series. That gave Pitt a 17-14 lead. Taylor added a third putback to make it 19-14.

"Passing was the key," Dixon said, referencing Taylor's game. "Our spacing was good. Movement was good. We had good passers. We just try to get good shots if we can recognize the right pass at the right time."

Pitt was shooting the ball well early--but three turnovers led to three St. John's field goals over this next stretch. It's not that surprising. Pitt has struggled in the turnover department this year. In games where they don't shoot the ball as well, and turn the ball over, they get blown out. In games--evidenced by tonight--where they still struggle with turnovers and shoot the ball well, the shooting is able to offset those struggles.

Pitt later made it a 23-18 game. Harrison added another three-pointer to make it 23-21 in favor of the Panthers, then his third of the game to give the Red Storm it's first lead in nearly ten minutes. Patterson gave Pitt a three-pointer, putting the Panthers back up 26-24. On the next series, Zanna came up with a loose ball, then pushed it ahead to John Johnson. Johnson then set up Patterson for the easy basket. Pitt extended its lead to 28-24, approaching the 5:00 mark of the first half.

Patterson then showed his ability to set people up, feeding Taylor with a nice bounce pass. Taylor finished off with a dunk, as Pitt now led 30-24.

Harrison went back to work to keep his team in it. He added a short-range jumper, followed by another three-pointer. St. John's cut its deficit to 30-29 with 3:38 left in the half, as Dixon was forced to take a time out. Pitt answered with a putback from Patterson, after a three-point attempt from Johnson bounced in and out of the rim.

Patterson closed the first half with a three-pointer, as Pitt took the 38-33 lead into the locker room.

Starting the second half, Pitt was the one creating the pressure and forcing turnovers. Taylor scooped up a loose ball, then fed it to Woodall. Woodall took it all the way down on a 2-on-1 with Patterson trailing. He dished to Patterson for the easy layup, who was fouled on the play. Patterson converted the free throw, making it a 46-35 lead less than two minutes into the second half.

"I think so, I thought we defended well today," Dixon added. "Greene made a lot of tough shots, Harrison consistently makes tough shots, but I thought we played well."

Woodall added a three-pointer on the next series, giving Pitt a commanding 49-35 lead. Pitt continued to shoot the ball well to start the half--converting its first five field goal attempts. A three-pointer from Moore extended Pitt's lead to 59-44. Gibbs added another to make it a 20-point lead, 64-44 with 11:36 left to play. Pitt's biggest lead of the night was 23, also its biggest lead in any Big East game this year.

Pitt relied on a strong-shooting first half, then combined that with a strong effort from three-point range in the second half combined with defense and an ability to cut down on the turnovers. All phases of the game were clicking for Pitt, leading to its first 20-point lead in a Big East game this season.

Moore added another for good measure, giving Pitt a 67-44 lead, approaching to 10:00 mark of the second half. At this point of the second half, Pitt started of 9-10 from the floor, 4-4 from three-point range and 5-5 from free throws--a total of 1 missed shot in the first ten minutes of the second half. Moore's 14-point effort is his fourth consecutive double-figure output.

"It starts with my teammates," Moore said after the game. "It comes from them. They told me to keep shooting, so I'm in the gym more working on my shot."

The Red Storm made one last run to get back in the game, getting a steal as Pitt struggled getting the ball up court. After a pair of free throws from Amir Garrett, the Red Storm trailed 70-55. They made it a 13-point game after a steal and a finish for Greene.

Gibbs kept St. John's at bay with a jumper, but the Red Storm wasn't through. Harrison got a three-pointer followed by a two-pointer from Greene. Pitt led 74-62 approaching the 5:00 mark of the game. Once again, though, Gibbs answered for Pitt followed by a two-pointer from Woodall. Woodall was also fouled on his bucket. He converted the three-point play to put Pitt back up 79-62, now under five minutes remaining.

Moore added his third three-point attempt of the evening followed by another steal, and a drive to the hoop from Lamar Patterson. Pitt regained it's 20-point lead, 84-64, with under three minutes left in the game.

After the 58.3% first half, Pitt took it up a notch, shooting an even 68% (17-25) for the second half, on it's way to 63.3% for the game.

"I definitely figured there was a different flow," Taylor said. "It's carrying over from practice, and playing good in practice, then carrying over to the game. We gotta worry about UConn on Saturday."

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