Pitt couldn't have asked for, or predicted such a comeback as they had on Saturday, their ACC Conference debut.
Pitt won its first-ever conference game, 74-62, over N.C. State at PNC Arena in Raleigh. Lamar Patterson and Talib Zanna, carried the team in the second half. Patterrson led all scorers with 22 points, while Zanna added 15. It was a stellar group effort from freshmen Josh Newkirk, Jamel Artis and Mike Young that kept Pitt in the game. Young added 13. T.J. Warren finished with 23 for N.C. State.
N.C. State jumped out to the early 10-2 lead. The biggest difference early--the Wolfpack converting good looks, the Panthers not so much. Pitt was just 1-4 to start the game.
The Wolfpack opened the game on a 17-0 run. A three-pointer from Warren, at the end of the shot clock, made it a 13-2 lead for the Wolfpack. Warren added another quick bucket, following a miss by Patterson. Dixon was forced to burn a thirty-second timeout. The Wolfpack led by as many as 17, in the first few minutes of the game.
It still wasn't the best of efforts in any area for Pitt. Shooting, rebounding, turning the ball over. However, the Panthers were able to get a few baskets back. Patterson drove in a short jumper from the baseline, cutting the deficit to 19-8. A bucket from Artis made it a 21-10 game.
After a steal from Chris Jones, Patterson added a fast break bucket, and was fouled. With the and-one, Pitt had it cut down to a 21-13 deficit, with just under nine minutes remaining in the first half. A long range jumper from Artis made it 21-15 deficit, just over seven minutes left in the first half.
Pitt came up with a couple stops then looked to its transition game to help out. James Robinson looked for Patterson to finish. Patterson's shot didn't go through, but Zanna was there with plenty of room for the putback. His bucket made it a 21-17 lead. Pitt had answered with a 13-2 run.
Later, Pitt got its first three-pointer of the half. This one, from Newkirk. N.C. State still led 25-20.
Just when it looked like Pitt was going to make it a close deficit heading into halftime, N.C. State hit some more close shots. BeeJay Anya--a high school teammate of Robinson--came off the bench to add a pair of dunks. They also got a three-pointer from Ralston Turner. Dixon was forced to call another timeout, as the Wolfpack led 32-22, just over two minutes left in the first half.
Though they didn't convert any field goals, Zanna hit 3-4 free throws on two trips to the foul line, on consecutive possessions. Pitt had it cut down to 34-26.
On its last possession of the first half, N.C. State turned the ball over. Cameron Wright dove on the loose ball with 18.1 seconds in the half, calling timeout.
N.C. State closed off any possible good looks for Pitt in its last possession of the half, as they took the 34-26 lead into halftime. Warren had 13 of those 34 first half points for the Wolfpack. It was the freshmen stepping up for Pitt, Artis and Newkirk leading the way with six points and five points, respectively.
Patterson, who shot 2-7 in the first half, had the first basket of the second half--a three-pointer. Pitt still trailed 34-29. Young answered with another three-pointer. Pitt cut it to just a four-point game, 36-32, not even two minutes in to the second half.
Patterson fed to Wright, who went underneath, to cut to a 38-36 deficit, with 17:18 left in the second half. Gottfried had to now call timeout to stop the bleeding, just as Dixon had to do twice in the first half.
Then, it was the senior Patterson taking over the game. He went coast to coast off an N.C. State miss, tying the game at 38-38. Then, after Zanna came down with a rebound off an N.C. State miss, he fed the ball to Patterson. Patterson took the ball all the way down, dishing to Wright. Wright's basket with just under 16 minutes left in the half gave Pitt its first lead of the game, 40-38. Wright was fouled on the play. With the and-on Pitt, led 41-38.
Patterson was dangerous in transition, and off the dribble. He came up with defensive rebound. Instead of passing off, as he had done in transition this half, Patterson drove the length of the court, finishing off with a dunk. Pitt led 47-40.
Even when the ball was settled in its offensive end of the court, Patterson was making plays, some without scoring. Off the dribble, from the baseline, Patterson looked to take a shot from just inside three-point range. Instead, he fed Wright for another basket. Pitt maintained its seven-point lead.
Then, when it wasn't Patterson, it was younger players feeding off his energy. Pitt led 54-44 after Durand Johnson came up with a loose ball, then fed up to Young, who finished off with a dunk.
The first half was saved by the Pitt freshmen. In the second half, the seniors Zanna and Patterson took over.
N.C. State wasn't done yet. Kyle Washington took his time on an inside drive. Despite drawing a quick double once he moved in the paint, he was ably to get a nice shot off, cutting the Pitt lead to 54-48, just past the halfway mark of the second half.
Pitt answered with another basket, but Turner answered with another three-pointer, cutting it to a 56-50 Pitt lead. Wright answered for Pitt the next time down. His long-range jumper kept Pitt up by eight, 58-50.
Patterson even held a shot down to the expiration of the shot clock, hitting a three-pointer, and giving Pitt a 66-53 lead, with just over four minutes remaining.
In the first half, Pitt employed its zone defense, which helped keep the game close. Then, they went back to an aggressive man defense in the second half, which helped build up the big lead.
And while it was the freshmen who helped keep Pitt in the game in the first half, seniors Zanna, Patterson, and junior Wright carried the team on its back in the second.