Pitt coach Jamie Dixon has been trying to get sophomore forward J.J. Moore more playing time, but it has been hard because Lamar Patterson, the player in front of Moore on the depth chart, has been among Dixon's best players all season.
Tuesday night against Saint Francis, Pa., Dixon juggled his rotation a bit to find suitable minutes for both of his talented small forwards, and Moore came through with a strong performance in Pitt's 71-47 victory at Petersen Events Center.
Moore led all scorers with 15 points and added six rebounds for the Panthers, who improved to 29-0 against Saint Francis and 70-0 against teams from the Northeast Conference.
Moore played 27 minutes, the most playing time he has seen in the past six games. Dixon played Patterson some at shooting guard and got both players on the floor at the same time.
"It's definitely working for us," Moore said of the tweak in the rotation. "Lamar is like another Brad Wanamaker. He can get rebounds, he can get assists, he can score. It's working out very well."
Patterson adjusted well in the minutes at shooting guard, and he delivered another well-rounded effort. He scored 11 points, had 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals and 1 turnover in 20 minutes.
"We're doing it more and more," Dixon said of playing Patterson at shooting guard. "Lamar has played really well. Any position we put him at he's playing well. Eventually, we thought Lamar and J.J. would play together, but it's probably going to happen more this year."
Junior center Dante Taylor also played well. Taylor had 14 points and eight rebounds as the No. 15 Panthers (11-1) dominated the boards again. They had twice as many rebounds as Saint Francis (42-21) and outscored the Red Flash, 44-16, in the paint.
Pitt's rebounding margin in the past four games is plus-20.
"The physicality on the glass, you can't simulate it in practice," Saint Francis coach Don Friday said. "What we tried to masquerade and what the reality was, it wasn't even in the same universe."
Taylor was one of five Pitt players with at least five rebounds. The board work and some tenacious defense in the early going led to the rout.
The Panthers scored the first 13 points and never looked back. They led, 19-2, eight minutes in and 27-4 a few minutes later before taking a 39-21 lead into the locker room at halftime.
The Panthers had as many offensive rebounds as Saint Francis had total rebounds in the first half. The only blessing for Friday was the scoreboard at Petersen Events Center malfunctioned.
"It's a good thing, too, because I might have had a stroke if I saw what the score was in some of those segments," Friday quipped.
Moore and Taylor said the fast start was a result of Dixon's upbeat demeanor in recent days.
"For the past week coach has been feeling us," Moore said. "He's been having confidence in us. Today he came fired up, and that fired us up, especially me. I just wanted to go out there and get a win for us."
"He's feeling our intensity," Taylor added. "The way we've been practicing, our energy has been lifting everyone up. We all come in excited. We're all excited every day ready to practice and ready to play. It showed today. We came out and played hard. That's what we've been doing for the past four days. Playing hard, playing smart. Everyone has been doing well."
The second half didn't get much better for Saint Francis. Pitt upped its lead to 30 by the 10-minute mark and Dixon was able to get his freshmen and walk-ons some playing time in the final minutes.
It was Pitt's eighth consecutive victory since losing to Long Beach State Nov. 16. The Panthers have one more non-conference remaining -- against Wagner Friday night at Petersen Events Center.
NOTES -- Senior guard Ashton Gibbs had nine points, the first time this season he has not reached double figures. ... The Panthers were 2 for 11 from 3-point range and are 5 for 34 from behind the arc in the past two games. ... The Panthers were 13 for 16 from the free throw line.
Ray Fittipaldo: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @rayfitt1. First Published December 21, 2011 5:00 AM