BROOKLYN, N.Y. -- Texas Tech was supposed to provide Pitt with its first test of the season, but it didn't take long Monday for the Panthers to make it abundantly clear that the Red Raiders were no match for them.
Pitt needed only six minutes to take a double-digit lead and just 13 to push the lead to 20 en route to an easy 76-53 win at the Barclays Center in a Progressive Legend's Classic semifinals.
The Panthers advanced to the championship game at 9:30 p.m. today and will play Stanford or Houston.
Pitt (5-0) got off to another fast start shooting as it was 6 of 14 from the 3-point in the first half (43 percent) and led at halftime, 41-18.
Leading that barrage was senior Lamar Patterson, who hit three 3-pointers in the first half and finished with a career-high 23 points and a career-high five steals.
Cameron Wright added 12 points, and the Panthers finished 25 of 53 from the field (47.2 percent) and 10 for 24 from the 3-point line (42 percent).
Patterson said the key to the game was the same as it always has been for Pitt under coach Jamie Dixon -- unselfish on offense, relentless on defense.
"Pitt was known for that when I was being recruited, and I was attracted to that," Patterson said. "I grew up playing against my older brothers and they always talked about defense, that is how you separate yourself, and that emphasis on defense attracted me.
"[Offensively,] we were doing what we do, passing the ball, sharing the ball. And when you have guys like Cam, James [Robinson], myself swinging the ball around the perimeter and finding the open man and guys hitting shots, it shows on the scoreboard."
The defense was impressive, especially when the Panthers were taking control of the game. They held the Red Raiders to 25 percent shooting (6 for 24) from the field in the first half and finished with a season-high 12 steals.
The Red Raiders (4-2) shot just 39 percent (19 of 49) from the field and committed 17 turnovers.
Texas Tech coach Tubby Smith said that the Panthers notoriously physical defense was as advertised, but he was equally impressed with how unselfish they were on offense.
"We seemed to be a little bit intimidated during the first part of the game and we missed some baskets," Smith said. "I was very impressed with their defense. But when you get guys sharing the minutes the way they do, sharing the basketball the way they do and defending the way they do, it speaks to a great coaching staff but also, the leadership and character of the team.
"They know how to win games. We haven't played anyone like that who was that physical with their size and athleticism."
Pitt used its transition game early to jump to a 14-4 lead and then went to the long ball from Patterson and Durand Johnson to push that lead to 22-6 halfway through the first half.
"Our passing and ball movement have been good all year," Dixon said. "We have experienced guards and that's key. You can see the difference [with teams who don't have experienced guards] early in the season, it really helps.
"But we have good kids, unselfish kids. It is hard to get 13 like that but you try to, and I think we are getting great leadership from Lamar and Talib [Zanna]. It is transferring to the younger guys. There is a culture for [unselfish play] here."
Texas Tech did get a big night from senior forward Jaye Crockett, who scored 19 points and had six rebounds, but Pitt did a great job of defending in the post and held 6-foot-10 center Dejan Kravic and 6-foot-7 Jordan Torbet to a combined 11 points and five rebounds.
Dixon said post defense was a point of emphasis at practice leading up to this game, so he was happy with the way the Panthers defended in the lane.
First Published November 25, 2013 9:49 PM