Excitement spreading for Pitt


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For most teams, a 49-point margin of victory would have created some outrageous individual statistics for the winning team. Perhaps a 30-point game from a star player or some little-used reserve using the stage to pad his statistics.

None of that happened in Pitt's 89-40 victory Saturday night against Bethune-Cookman at Petersen Events Center. J.J. Moore was the leading scorer with 18 points and freshman center Steven Adams had a breakout performance with 16 points and 10 rebounds for his first career double-double.

Coach Jamie Dixon's first instinct was not to praise the leading scorers. Much like his team, Dixon wants to spread the wealth, so he opened his postgame news conference by touting the player who scored the fewest amount of points in the game.

The game leading scorer Tray Woodall played was nothing to write home about from a statistical perspective, and that was Dixon's point exactly. Woodall only had three points, but he had 10 of the team's 28 assists in a performance that has come to define the way the Panthers are playing early in this season.

They are unselfish -- sometimes to a fault -- and their approach to offense has Dixon excited about his team's prospects.

"The first thing people will talk about is the scoring, but the guy who really stands out in my mind is Tray, who takes one shot," Dixon said. "It shows the mentality of our team, the unselfishness of our team. I think we're No. 1 in the country in assists and assist-to-turnover ratio. He takes one shot, 10 assists and doesn't at all worry about his stats as our leading scorer. I think that says a lot about our team."

Pitt has 217 assists in 11 games for an average of 19.7 per game. Only North Carolina (20.1 per game) averages more.

The Panthers do lead Division I in assist-to-turnover ratio. They dish out 2.11 assists for every turnover committed. The gap between first and second place is huge. Notre Dame checks in at No. 2 with a 1.71 ratio.

The Panthers have three of the top 32 players in Division I when it comes to assist-to-turnover ratio. Freshman point guard James Robinson (4.6) is ranked 14th. Tray Woodall and Lamar Patterson (3.2) are tied for 32nd.

Woodall is 25th in assists per game with 5.9. He has 19 in the past two games.

But it's not only the guards who have the unselfish gene. From the point guards to the centers and all players in between, Dixon has players who are capable and willing to share the wealth.

Dixon cited the team's ball movement Saturday night after the game was in hand.

"We were up big and continued to take good shots and make unselfish plays," Dixon said. "And no one was looking for their own [points]. In a game with a pretty good margin that says a lot about our guys. It's something that's rare and has come to be expected here, but it shouldn't be. It's something we've consistently done and it says a lot about our team."

The unselfish play has resulted in the Panthers being near the top of Division I's statistics in field-goal percentage as well. They are shooting a Big East Conference-best 51.8 percent from the field.

The Panthers set a school record for field-goal percentage in a game when they shot 70.8 percent in the opener against Mount St. Mary's. They were close to breaking that record Saturday night until some late misses lowered their percentage at game's end to .673. It was the fourth time this season the Panthers shot 58 percent or better in a game.

Dixon said after the game that the Panthers still have some issues on the defensive end, but their offensive efficiency has the players champing at the bit to get the final two non-conference games behind them and start the Big East schedule.

"It's high," junior forward J.J. Moore said of the team's confidence level. "It's real high. We look to go into conference play playing the same way we're playing right now."

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Ray Fittipaldo: rfittipaldo@post-gazette.com and Twitter: @rayfitt1. First Published December 17, 2012 5:00 AM


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