It was only a matter of time before Lamar Patterson was going to get going. Thankfully, he was on target Tuesday night, as Pitt needed his three-point shooting in a 70-46 win over Howard.
"Our defense got better in the second half," head coach Jamie Dixon said. "Give (Howard) credit. It's something we'll have to learn from and get better for."
Patterson led the Panthers with 15 points, and was a perfect 4-4 from three-point range to start the game. In the first four games of the season, Patterson was a combined 1-10 from three-point range. He is now 8-15 in his last three games, including 5-8 tonight.
Travon Woodall tied for the team-lead with 15 points of his own. Talib Zanna scored 10 of his 12 points in the second half, and J.J. Moore scored 6 of his 9 in the second half. James Robinson finished with 11 points and 8 assists.
Howard--playing with seven scholarship players--hung tough with the Panthers early on. In fact, they dominated Pitt in the paint, out scoring them 24-10 through 20 minutes of work.
After five lead changes in the first half, Patterson hit back-to-back three-pointers on consecutive possessions, his second three gave Pitt a 13-12 lead with 13:30 left in the half.
Typically, when a player gets hot from three-point range, it can be contagious. That was the case for Pitt, as James Robinson added a three-pointer to make it a 16-14 lead.
Interestingly, Patterson gave credit to Robinson, for help setting up those threes.
"It was this guy (pointing at Robinson) hitting me (with the pass)," Patterson said. "You hit the guy on time, and it just raises the percentage of the shot."
Pitt finally was able to pull away after Patterson's third three-pointer of the night. That made it a 29-24 Pitt lead. Pitt went on to lead 36-28 at the half, but thanks to a 6-10 performance from three-point range. Howard dominated Pitt in the paint, 24-10. Big men Talib Zanna and Steven Adams were a combined 0-3 in the first half.
Whatever Dixon said to his team at halftime worked. Adams grabbed a pair of defensive rebounds, and Zanna got an easy bucket inside. The Panthers took just the first 1:08 of the second half to go on a 7-0 run, jumping out to a 39-28 lead. They never looked back.
"In the first half, we came out flat-footed," Zanna said. "We got yelled at by Coach.
"In the second half, I felt like (Howard) was getting tired. We kept outrunning them, kept the defense up."
In fact, Howard head coach Kevin Nickelberry credited Adams for helping wear out his team in the second half; all this despite Adams just scoring 2 points and 6 rebounds.
"Adams, he ran the floor like a mad man," Nickelberry said. "It sealed us pretty well. He did a great job. Eighteen free throws (for Pitt) to three (for Howard) is a big difference, too."
Patterson only converted 1 of 2 three-point shots in the second half, but with more success in the paint, the Panthers did not have to rely on the three-point game as much as they did in the first half. Pitt outscored Howard 22-10 in the paint in the second half. Adams had all six of his rebounds on the defensive end. All six came in the second half.
Despite that, rebounding remains a concern for Dixon, moving forward.
"We have to get better," Dixon said. "I hoped we would get better today, but we didn't."