Panthers make slate at Legends Classic look easy

PITT


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BROOKLYN, N.Y. -- It would be quite an understatement to say Pitt was successful in the Progressive Legends Classic considering just how easily the Panthers ran through the competition.

Pitt won four games in the tournament -- two at Petersen Events Center and two at the Barclays Center -- by an average of 23.8 points and was challenged very little by any of the four opponents.

The Panthers led each game by at least 15 points at the half and never led by fewer than 11 points in the second half.

The most impressive win of the four was the final one -- an 88-67 destruction of Stanford Tuesday in the championship.

Next: Pitt vs. Duquesne

Game: Pitt (6-0) vs. Duquesne (2-2), Consol Energy Center.

When: 1 p.m. Saturday.

TV: None.

Howard, which Pitt beat, 84-52, Nov. 17, is a low-major program and one that is overhauling a roster that was clearly no match for Pitt.

Pitt (6-0) then beat a physically and athletically overmatched Lehigh team, 77-58, Nov. 20. And Monday, the Panthers pounded a rebuilding Texas Tech team, 76-53.

Those three teams were not likely to challenge Pitt given their current makeup, and the Panthers took care of business by blowing them out.

But the Cardinal was a different-level team, a veteran team with NCAA aspirations that had the size and athleticism to push the Panthers and perhaps beat them.

Early in the game, Stanford matched Pitt basket for basket, but the Panthers pulled away by halftime and rolled over the Cardinal in the second half.

Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said the game against Stanford was the first real test of his team and he was impressed by the way the Panthers responded.

"This was good for us because obviously that is a quality program, quality institution and that is why we wanted to play in the Legends Classic," Dixon said. "We knew we would play great teams and great schools like Stanford. I am just happy how we responded. Obviously, getting off to another big lead was good, but I thought we battled in the second half, as well, and that was good to see.

"We had a variety of guys doing things for us and that has been our calling card, probably even more so this year."

The Panthers certainly did have several players contribute throughout the tournament, which has been a theme for them this season.

In the championship, five Panthers reached double figures in scoring and the two players who primarily split time at the power forward spot -- freshmen Jamel Artis and Michael Young -- combined for 11 points and seven rebounds.

Senior guard/forward Lamar Patterson, who scored a combined 47 points in the two games in Brooklyn, was named the tournament MVP.

"He rose to the occasion. He elevated his level of play in a championship game the way great players do," Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins.

Patterson set a career high with 23 points Monday in the win against Texas Tech, then set a career high the next night against Stanford with 24.

He also had five steals against the Red Raiders and six assists against the Cardinal. Dixon said those are the numbers of an unselfish player who has one goal on his mind every game -- to win.

"He's a better player now than he was last year and probably a better player than he was even a few weeks ago," Dixon said. "He has always had skills. He can pass and he can shoot. He's a better athlete and in better shape right now and that comes from physical and mental maturity.

"He has taken that challenge. We set a goal for him and he reached it. It has been a battle and he's gotten to it. We joke that we can call him an athlete now."

Though the Panthers are no longer in the Big East, Dixon said they will always try to play games and in events in the New York City area because it is good for recruiting and an area Pitt fans enjoy going to.

"We have asked to be in New York whenever we can," Dixon said. "We like this type of environment. I told the guys before the game, 'Do you understand that we're playing in an NBA arena, NBA locker rooms and practicing on the Brooklyn Nets practice court?' We have a lot of alumni around here, we have had a lot of players from around here, so coming here fits us in every way."

Paul Zeise: pzeise@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1720 and Twitter @paulzeise.


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