Through three games, No. 5 Pitt has shown it has a significant advantage over most opponents with its depth.

Many teams rotate a handful of players throughout games, but it appears few will be able to boast as much quality depth as the Panthers (3-0). Pitt plays Maryland (3-0) at 7 p.m. tonight at Madison Square Garden in New York as part of the 2K Sports Coaches vs. Cancer Classic, coming off easily its most glaring display of team depth.

All told, the Panthers bench combined to score 47 points Saturday in a 95-49 win against North Florida. They also totaled 26 of the team’s 59 rebounds, 14 of the team’s 26 assists and turned the ball over just twice.

“It shows that we’re deep,” guard Brad Wanamaker said. “Everybody works. We see it in practice — other guys get the best of other guys every day in practice. So we know everybody can score.”

But Saturday wasn’t an aberration. Three days earlier against Illinois-Chicago, the bench combined for 33 points in a 97-54 win. And in the season-opener against Rhode Island, Travon Woodall and Lamar Patterson came off the bench to combine for 12 points in a close 83-75 win.

Coach Jamie Dixon said that it all comes down to how players work and improve once arriving at Pitt. That has made the Panthers successful in the past and, while they haven’t always had the high-profile high school recruits, they’ve had success.

“We really care about not what guys are ranked (coming out of high school) but what they’re gonna be,” Dixon said. “Tell me about their ranking four years later. That’s the only thing we look at. Production is key.”

Dixon’s first man off the bench in all three games has been forward Dante Taylor. Taylor had his ups and down last year as a true freshman, seeing significant minutes in Big East play.

So far this year his development has be noticeable. Taylor is averaging 6 points and over 7 rebounds in just less than 16 minutes a game thus far. Against North Florida, Taylor pulled in 11 rebounds, 7 offensive.

“It’s always (important) for me to be active around the glass, get rebounds,” Taylor said. “That’s what I’m gonna do. I’m trying to be a good rebounder in the conference. It’s just the act of playing hard, going out there doing what coach wants.”

J.J. Moore led the Panthers in scoring against North Florida with 19 points and Woodall added 10 points and 5 assists. The two, along with Taylor, were spoken highly of by Dixon after the win.

“We’ve seen these guys improve and every one of these guys is a better player than they were last year,” he said. “That’s a great sign of their work ethic and commitment to what we’re doing and what they’re doing.”

Bench Highlights

Nov. 8 — Pitt 83, Rhode Island 75:
Woodall scored 7 points and added 3 assists while Taylor scored 2 points and pulled in 3 rebounds. Lamar Patterson added 4 rebounds, 3 offensive, 2 steals and 5 points in the win.

Nov. 10 — Pitt 97, Illinois-Chicago 54:
Taylor and J.J. Moore had 9 points each while Taylor dominated the glass with 8 rebounds, 7 offensive. All told, 11 Panthers saw the floor in the win.

Nov. 13 — Pitt 95, North Florida 49:
J.J. Moore scored 19, Taylor had 7 and Woodall added 5 assists and 10 points in the win. Pitt played a total of 12 players.

Chris Gates | Area 4-1-Zoo Blog

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