PITTSBURGH (93-7 The FAN) — St. Francis head coach Don Friday was thankful the Petersen Events Center scoreboard was malfunctioning in the first half Tuesday night.
That way he didn’t have to see how lopsided the score was.
“I guess maybe it was a good thing, in this beautiful venue, that the scoreboards weren’t on, because maybe I would have had a damn stroke had I seen what the score was in some segments,” Friday said.
No. 15 Pitt jumped out to a 27-4 lead in the game’s opening 13 minutes, leaving few to worry that the Panthers could lose their first game ever to a Northeast Conference opponent (70-0 all time), and cruised to a 71-47 win.
As the Panthers piled it on early, the PA announcer at the Pete continued to verbalize the score so everyone in attendance could keep track. It might have made the deficit seem even worse for the Red Flash.
Pitt capitalized off St. Francis mistakes and made little of its own en route to a huge lead and complete control of the game.
“(Pitt coach Jamie Dixon) has been feeling like our intensity — the way we’ve been practicing, how good we’ve been practicing lately, our energy — has been lifting everybody up,” junior forward Dante Taylor said after the game. “He’s coming in excited, we’re all coming in excited every day … It showed today.”
The first half resembled more of a dunk contest than an actual game, as forwards Dante Taylor, J.J. Moore and Lamar Patterson got to the bucket with ease. All three finished the game with double-figures in scoring — Moore with 15, Taylor with 14 and Patterson with 11.
Pitt was bigger and more skilled than St. Francis in the front court and it showed. The Panthers outrebounded the Red Flash, 42-21, and nearly had as many offensive rebounds as St. Francis had total rebounds (18).
Taylor had eight boards, Nasir Robinson had seven, Moore added six and Talib Zanna had five. Even true freshman Malcolm Gilbert got in the mix, pulling down three rebounds in 16 minutes of play — by far the most playing time of his young career.
“The physicality that Pitt throws at you on the glass, you can’t simulate it,” Friday said.
St. Francis eventually got its offense going after falling down 27-4, but it was hardly enough to pose any type of threat in the game. The Red Flash outscored Pitt, 17-12, in the final 6:26 of the first half, but Pitt held a 39-21 halftime lead.
The Panthers rung off four straight dunks at the beginning of the second half — two by Taylor and two by Patterson — as part of a 10-0 run to take a 28-point lead. That lead eventually grew to a game-high of 31 points, 63-32, with 8:36 remaining.
Dixon was able to play most of his reserves for considerable minutes in the second half, allowing veterans like Taylor, Robinson and Ashton Gibbs to rest down the stretch. All told, 10 Panthers saw time against the Red Flash.
And with that, Pitt might have found a new superstition for success at the Petersen Events Center.
“We may wanna turn the scoreboard off more often because we got off to a good start,” Dixon said. “We did what we wanted to do against the 1-3-1 — I thought we attacked it very well. That’s something we prepared for in the one day we had to prepare. (We) outrebounded them by a big number, which is what we wanted to do. It’s our strength and we wanted to take advantage of that.”