Coles, who saw his team get blown out in the second half and lose 82-53 to Pittsburgh Monday night at the Petersen Events Center, initially would not say whether the Panthers or UCLA would have the upper hand against each other. After breaking the lineup down by position, however, Pitt had an edge.
The Bruins were better in the backcourt, Coles believed, with senior point guard Darren Collison and fifth-year senior shooting guard Josh Shipp, but up front it was no contest in favor of Pitt.
"The front line, it's Pitt, Pitt, Pitt,'' Coles said. "So, I don't know. I couldn't tell you, but it would appear that Pitt would be a little better. I will tell you this. It seems like Pitt's a top-10 team.
"I don't know who could be a whole lot better than them. They're strong and physical, and they're not dirty at all. But they are physical, and they seem to enjoy playing together. Let's just say that they're good.''
Coles probably wasn't too impressed with his initial look at Pitt Monday, although he was effusive in praising Panthers sophomore center DeJuan Blair. Pitt basically was in control during the early going and built a 12-point lead, 19-7, at just past the midpoint when Blair scored off a pass from sophomore Bradley Wanamaker.
But the Big Fella picked up his second foul shortly thereafter and sat the rest of the half. Blair played just eight first-half minutes, and Miami (OH) went on a spectacular run to get within three, 33-30, with 1:08 remaining. Levance Fields scored on a drive to the hoop 25 seconds later to give Pitt 35-30 halftime edge. So, the RedHawks did a great job to get back into it.
"But we forgot, and that's amazing because we fought back,'' Coles said. "What helped us was that Blair was out for a while. That did me a lot of good. ... He's a big guy, and I'm never going to watch him warm up again.
"I thought we hustled, but even though we fought back 35-30 (at halftime) we didn't get a lot of bounces. We opened the second half with a shot that we didn't want to take. I thought if we could have gotten to 35-32, but we didn't. ... And they went crazy. They went wild, and we never got it back.''
Pitt outscored Miami (Ohio) 47-35 in the second half and finished with all five starters scoring in double figures. Fields led the way with his first career double-double, 12 points and 12 assists, while senior Sam Young added 14 points and seven rebounds and junior Jermaine Dixon tallied 14 points, two assists and two steals. Blair and senior Tyrell Biggs had 10 points each, while Blair added nine boards in 19 minutes.
"We came out with a whole knew attitude in the second half, because they actually out-rebounded us in the first half,'' Blair said. "The seniors, we talked about it at halftime and responded in the second half.
"We were angry, because we didn't play the way that we should be at the end of the first half, but ... we played very good defense in the second half and out-rebounded them (37-30 overall).''
Fields tallied eight assists in the second half and didn't shoot as much, but that distribution allowed his teammates to almost score at will against the RedHawks. Fields took just two second-half shots after firing up seven before the intermission.
"I always finish with eight, nine, assists, and I always tell these guys that I could easily get 10 or more if they would make their shots,'' Fields joked with his teammates. "So, I was very glad to get to 12 (Monday) night. ... Everybody did a great job, and this was a great win for us overall.''
Underclassmen played some significant minutes for the Panthers. Sophomore center Gary McGhee was in for 19 minutes and had four points, three rebounds and two blocked shots. McGhee still needs to be more aggressive in the paint, but he is considerably better than last season.
Freshman Nasir Robinson played 16 minutes and tallied six points, four rebounds and one assists with two turnovers and two missed free throws. He is athletic and aggressive on defense, already an upgrade on Biggs.
Frosh guard Ashton Gibbs and Wanamaker played 14 minutes each, while freshman point guard Travon Woodall scored two points and had five rebounds with two assists, a steal and a turnover in eight minutes. Wanamaker hit both his shots and had three rebounds with three turnovers, while Gibbs tallied five points, a rebound, an assist and a steal with two turnovers.
"I'm very happy with our defense, and ... that's throughout the lineup,'' Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said. "I thought in the first half that we defended pretty well, but the rebounding was the big difference. We did a better job of rebounding in the second half and our good defense continued. We also shot well in the second half (64.3 percent).''
Pitt plays host to Akron Friday night at 7 and IUP Saturday at 4 p.m. at the Petersen Events Center. Two victories will make the Panthers 100-10 at the Pete.
Pitt 82, Miami (OH) 53
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