PITTSBURGH (93-7 The FAN) — Nasir Robinson scored 17 points and Dante Taylor added 11 as Pitt’s front court put forth a solid second-half effort to beat La Salle Tuesday night, 73-69.
The Panthers front court scored just six points in the first half, allowing La Salle to keep the game close. Add in a struggling Ashton Gibbs, who scored just four points in the first half and was 3-for-15 shooting on the night, and Pitt had its hands full Tuesday at the Petersen Events Center.
After holding a two-point lead at halftime, 28-26, Pitt’s front court nearly totaled the entire first-half effort with 26 points in the second half. Robinson had 13 in the second while Taylor added nine and freshman Khem Birch — in his first career appearance at center — scored four.
All three had a big impact down the stretch.
With a one-point lead, 31-30, Robinson scored six straight points, Taylor added two free throws, Birch put in a layup and Robinson added another for a 43-36 Pitt lead with 14:50 to play. Birch rebounded and slammed home a J.J. Moore miss all in one motion that gave a big burst of energy to the team and the crowd.
“He was more effective there,” Dixon said of Birch playing center. “He was playing both (forward and center) and we’ve got to get him more comfortable playing there.”
Gibbs followed with his one and only 3-pointer of the night and Pitt took a 10-point lead with under 14 minutes to play, 48-38.
However, La Salle made a surge of its own and went on a 15-4 run to take a 53-52 lead with 7:45 left in the game. Pitt needed to answer and it did, as Moore found Robinson under the hoop for an easy two.
Moore hit a 3 on the next possession and Taylor threw home a dunk off a Gibbs miss to take a 59-53 lead. La Salle would never climb back even with the Panthers.
The Explorers cut Pitt’s lead back down to three, 72-69, with under a minute remaining but Tray Woodall made a game-saving block underneath the hoop after a bad turnover by Gibbs to seal the win.
“Normally I would just go up and contest the shot to make it difficult for him,” Woodall said. “At that point in time we needed a stop and I just went after it.”