Pitt reacted well to a fast start from Fresno State. After trailing in the early minutes of the game, Pitt's defense and rebounding allowed the Panthers to play catch up, eventually growing into a 75-54 win over Fresno State.
Talib Zanna led the way with 19 points and 10 rebounds, followed by Cameron Wright with 13. It's the seventh double-double of Zanna's career, while Wright ties a career-high. Lamar Patterson led the way with seven assists for a second game in a row. Freshman Mike Young pulled down nine rebounds.
"This was a good win for our guys tonight," head coach Jamie Dixon said. "I thought Fresno State played really well, despite some match-up disadvantages. I am looking forward to watching them progress as well as watching our own team progress. We hope to be tough team this season and Fresno State should be a strong team as well. They did do some things really well, but we were able to exploit the things that they didn't do so well. Obviously Jamel (Artis) and Michael (Young) played tremendously well for us down low tonight."
The biggest number of the night, a 47-19 edge in rebounding for the Panthers. Within that rebounding edge, a 30-5 advantage--Pitt defensive rebounds to Fresno State offensive rebounds. In addition to that, a 52-14 scoring advantage for Pitt in the paint.
Fresno State got out to an early 12-8 lead, thanks to hitting two of its first four three-pointers. Even with the matchup zone for Pitt, Fresno State was able to pick its spots for its three-point attempts. The good news for Pitt, they were shutting down the inside game--no points in the paint of those first 12.
"They did something against us, that we hadn't seen from them, and that was playing zone defense," Fresno State head coach Rodney Terry said. "We settled for some shots as opposed to working the ball. We didn't take advantage of that."
Pitt tied it up, 13-13, when Patterson fed to Jamel Artis for an easy two.
Pitt took its first lead of the half when Artis converted the front end of a pair of free throws, Pitt led 16-15 halfway through the first half.
That sparked a 7-0 run over a span over the next three minutes that built to a 22-15 Pitt lead, following another second-chance bucket. This time, it was Young.
Pitt's largest lead in he he first half was eight, following a fast break, as Wright dished inside to Zanna for the finish. Pitt led 26-18 with just over four minutes left in the first half.
"In the beginning of the game they came out very strong," Wright said. "They hit a lot of shots and we weren't getting stops. We have a great coaching staff and they adjusted. The 2-3 zone worked for us in our favor and we stuck with it."
The outside shot, a good gameplan for Fresno State while it worked. Pitt didn't adjust out its defense too much. After a 2-4 start from three-point range, the Bulldogs hit just x-x three-pointers in the final 16 minutes of the first half.
Offensively, Pitt was getting it done inside in terms of scoring. As a result of all those missed outside shots, Pitt's big men were there for virtually every defensive rebound--17 defensive rebounds on a total of 17 missed Fresno State shots, no offensive rebounds at all for the Bulldogs. Because of this edge in the first half, Pitt was not only able to storm back, but also build a 35-18 lead at the half. A 20-3 run over the final 10 minutes of the first half.
"Coach [Jamie] Dixon emphasizes rebounding in practice every day," Zanna said. "I thought we would come out and out-rebound them. I thought that Mike [Young], Derrick [Randall] and I did a good job rebounding today. It's a good start."
Fresno State made a couple minor adjustments, defensively, to try to force tougher shots inside for Pitt. It slowed things down a little--in terms of getting second-chance buckets from Wright or Zanna--but for some reason opened things up for Derrick Randall, when he went in for Zanna.
Pitt extended its lead to 58-37, with just over eight minutes left in the game, after Zanna got back in a rhythm. He scored eight points in a five-minute span, on his way to helping the Panthers to its biggest lead of the game. Pitt found some success, overall in the game, making the extra pass on the inside. Patterson got four of his seven assists on Zanna baskets.
"Lamar just did a good job getting the ball in down low," Zanna added. "He did a good job."