Over the summer when J.J. Moore was recuperating from foot surgery that forced him to stay off the court, coach Jamie Dixon had some heart-to-heart conversations with his talented junior about adding another position to his resume. In convincing Moore to embrace a move to power forward he drew a comparison between Moore and former Pitt star and current NBA player Sam Young.
On Monday night, Moore did a fair impersonation of Young in Pitt's 86-51 victory against Fordham in the first round of the Preseason NIT at Petersen Events Center. The Panthers will play Lehigh tonight for the right to advance to the semifinal round of the tournament next week at Madison Square Garden in New York.
- Matchup: Pitt vs. Lehigh, 9 p.m., Petersen Events Center.
- TV, Radio: ESPNU, KDKA-FM (93.7)
Moore, a 6-foot-6 junior, came off the bench to lead the team with 20 points. He showed off his inside and outside game, crashing the boards to get some early points and then stepping out to the 3-point line to take advantage of his taller and slower counterparts.
Moore was 3 for 5 from 3-point range and displayed a confidence that he had not shown in his first two years in the program.
"I told him in the offseason this is where Sam had his breakout year," Dixon said. "And it's this exact same change where [Young] played the four [position] and the three. It creates matchup problems obviously. We didn't really have that last year. We really have something there that we can cause some problems with. His confidence is soaring because of it. It's the same thing we saw with Sam in a lot of ways.
"He's played really good defense, too. That's standing out, too. He's taking pride in what he's doing."
Moore was one point shy of getting his career high, and Dixon took him out early because the game was in control. He did all of his damage in 19 minutes.
Moore replaced starting power forward Talib Zanna midway through the first half and was the spark the Panthers needed. Holding a 12-11 lead, the Panthers began to pull away as soon as Moore entered the game. He scored all 12 of his first-half points in the final 13:18 of the half.
Moore's second 3-pointer stretched the lead to 33-18. Then with 27 seconds remaining before halftime, Moore made two free throws made it 37-18. With Moore leading the way, Pitt outscored Fordham, 19-3, over the final 9:50 of the half.
"I like my role coming off the bench," Moore said. "I feel like I give my team a lot of energy coming off the bench, giving it on defense and making good plays on defense. I think it's helping us on the court."
The Panthers shot 53 percent from the field and had 24 assists and only six turnovers. Dixon also received strong efforts from several others. Freshman center Steven Adams had 13 points and five rebounds. Senior guard Tray Woodall had 12 points and five assists.
Adams set the tone inside with eight points in the first half. The Panthers outrebounded Fordham, 36-24. They had 16 offensive rebounds, 42 points in the lane and 21 second-chance points.
"That was a whooping in the paint," Fordham coach Tom Pecora said.
The Panthers also forced Fordham into 19 turnovers and held the Rams to 36 percent shooting. In the first half, Fordham shot 26 percent. Senior forward Chris Gaston, who had 19 points and 14 rebounds in Fordham's opener, was held to four points and six rebounds.
"I told my team it was like being an eighth- or ninth-grader in the schoolyard and having the older guys beat you up pretty good," Pecora said. "They are a very good basketball team."
NOTES -- Pitt's bench contributed 42 points. Pitt's reserves are averaging 37 points per game in the first two games. ... The Panthers were 7 for 17 from 3-point range. ... Bryan Smith and Jeff Short led the Rams with 11 points.mobilehome - pittsports
Ray Fittipaldo: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter: @rayfitt1. First Published November 13, 2012 6:15 AM