PITTSBURGH – It seemed Pitt would have to shut down UConn guard Kemba Walker if it wanted to win Monday night at the Petersen Events Center.
In reality, the Panthers just had to shut down the rest of the Huskies, which they did in a 78-63 win. No. 6 Pitt improved to 13-1 on the season and 1-0 in Big East play, extending its perfect mark to 8-0 against top 5 teams at the Petersen Events Center.
Walker scored 31 points, scoring 21 in the second half.
“Coming in to the game, we didn’t want him to get his,” Brad Wanamaker said. “But, him being a great player, he went out and he made some tough shots, got to the free throw line and came up with 31 points.
“I feel as though we had a good team effort on defense. We made a lot of things tough for their players.”
And that includes Walker.
Walker scored 31, but did so by shooting just 10 of 27 from the field. He struggled from 3-point range, shooting 3 of 11 from behind the arc and just 1 of 7 in the first 32 minutes.
All told, the Huskies shot just 31.7 percent from the field, struggling to produce much of anything in the low post.
“I thought they just locked us up defensively,” UConn coach Jim Calhoun said. “We’re not being a young team, but we’re making young plays.”
Calhoun said Pitt’s offense, which produced 19 assists on 25 baskets, fed off the way its defense played. He also said the only thing his team was able to do well was rebound. The Huskies outrebounded Pitt 36-33 and had 20 offensive rebounds.
“We didn’t react to being legally, physically handled defensively,” Calhoun said.
Roscoe Smith managed eight points to lead UConn in post scoring but fouled out after playing just 18 minutes. Charles Okwandu scored just four points and fouled out as well, and Alex Oriakhi managed just one point all game.
Conversely, Pitt’s Gary McGhee and Nasir Robinson each had double-doubles. Both scored 11 points and McGhee pulled in 11 rebounds while Robinson finished with 10.
“We had some post touches that worked,” Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said. “We got some pretty good attacks on the back end of the press. I thought that’s how we got some buckets from our inside guys.”
Pitt built a nine-point lead, 16-7, just five minutes in to the game and was able to hold that size of a lead for most of the first half. The Panthers took a 37-28 lead in to halftime and burst out to a 15-point lead with less than 10 minutes to play in regulation.
The Panthers led 60-45 with 8:39 left when UConn went on a run to try and take the lead for the first time all game. Two 3-pointers and a layup by Walker cut Pitt’s lead to seven, 62-55, but that’s as close as the Huskies would get.
Ashton Gibbs had 10 of his 21 points from then on, hitting two killer 3-pointers to put the game out of reach.
“We did some good things,” Dixon said. “We sustained it for 40 minutes and that was good to see.”
Chris Gates | Area 4-1-Zoo Blog