PITTSBURGH (93-7 The FAN) — Last week we officially welcomed Khem Birch to Pitt after a couple nice performances.
Birch was so effective that he earned two starts with Dante Taylor out because of headaches. That continued Wednesday night against Duquesne in the City Game at Consol Energy Center, as Birch got the start over a healthy Taylor.
It didn’t last long, though. After Birch was called for his first foul four minutes into the game Pitt coach Jamie Dixon replaced him with Taylor.
And from that point on, Taylor showed everyone that he has aspirations of never giving that starting job back. He quickly got to work, following a Tray Woodall miss with a tip-in and then grabbing a defensive rebound that led to an Ashton Gibbs 3-pointer to tie the game, 10-10.
“At shootaround, Coach told me that he wasn’t going to start me and I was prepared to come off the bench with energy,” Taylor said after the game.
Taylor continued to impress in the next few minutes, pulling in two more defensive rebounds and helping the Panthers on a 10-3 run to take a 15-10 advantage midway through the half. He finished the first half with a team-leading seven points and five rebounds in 10 minutes and Pitt held a 38-27 lead.
That type of production was just as consistent in the second half. Duquesne hung around and actually cut its deficit to four, 50-46, with 12:47 to play. The Panthers responded with a 14-6 run that was capped by, you guessed it, Taylor.
“I thought every time we had them in trouble, they were able to convert with a big 3,” Duquesne coach Ron Everhart said.
Taylor assisted Nasir Robinson down low, pulled in a rebound that resulted in an Ashton Gibbs 3-pointer and then got another follow-up tip-in before throwing down an alley-oop from Woodall to give Pitt a 64-52 lead with 8:01 remaining.
He finished the game with 15 points and 10 rebounds for his first double-double of the season. He was a perfect 6-for-6 from the field and 3-for-3 from the free throw line.
“It definitely was a confidence-builder, just piggybacking off the last game I played before the two I missed,” Taylor said. “I was able to come out and play with energy.”
And possibly win back his starting job.
Chris Gates | Area 4-1-Zoo Blog