Youngstown State coach Jerry Slocum summarized the Penguins’ 91-73 loss to Pitt Saturday at Petersen Events Center in the simplest and most accurate way he could think of in his postgame news conference.
“They manhandled us,” Slocum said, which is a great way to describe what the bigger, more physical Panthers did to the Penguins in the paint, and it also was the biggest reason the Panthers won the game.
What does “manhandling” look like in terms of one basketball team to another?
Start with the fact that the Panthers outrebounded the Penguins, 47-21, the largest rebounding margin they have posted in a game this season.
Pitt had 20 offensive rebounds, one fewer than the Penguins had total, and Pitt center Talib Zanna had almost as many defensive rebounds (11) as the Penguins had as a team (14).
The rebounding edge led to the Panthers rolling up impressive numbers of points in the paint (48) and second-chance points (20). It helped overcome Penguins star guard Kendrick Perry, who scored 28 points.
“The difference in this game was on the glass, we gave up 20 offensive rebounds,” Slocum said. “We couldn’t handle their strength and their physicality. There are a couple of things that they do well every year since coach [Jamie] Dixon has been their coach, and physicality of defense and rebounding the basketball are two things they are always going to do well.”
The Panthers took advantage of their size and strength on the glass, but they also were able to get a lot of baskets down low. As a result, they shot 51.5 percent from the floor even though they were a little off from beyond the 3-point line (5 of 16, 31.3 percent).
Dixon said he thought the Panthers would be able to take advantage of some matchups under the basket, but he was surprised by the way they were able to dominate the Penguins.
“They play kind of small, but their rebounding numbers are pretty good,” Dixon said. “But I thought we should beat them [in rebounding] and our goal was to outrebound them by 15 and we did that, we surpassed that, we had a big margin. I don’t think we anticipated it would be by that much.
“I felt we should beat them on the glass. Their guards are young, but their big guys are [more experienced], but we stayed out of foul trouble and our big guys played well.”
The Panthers again got contributions from several different players and shared the ball on offense as they had 22 assists on 35 field goals.
Every player who played 15 minutes or more had at least two assists, led by Durand Johnson and Lamar Patterson each with four.
If there was a negative for the Panthers, it was that they gave up more points to Perry than any other player has scored against them this season.
Perry, who came in averaging 20.7 points per game, was 11 of 18 from the field, but most of his points were slashing to the basket or in transition. Stopping penetration by good guards has been an issue at times for the Pitt defense this year.
Pitt guard James Robinson said the Panthers’ issues guarding a player such as Perry may start at the perimeter, but include breakdowns on defense by all five players on the court, and that is an area where they need to improve.
“We obviously knew he was a good scorer from playing against him in summer league, we’ve seen what he can do,” Robinson said. “We knew he was going to be aggressive all [game] and we obviously didn’t do a very good job on him, but we’re happy to come out with the win.”
Pitt led, 43-32, at halftime, but went on a 7-0 run to start the second half and then pushed the lead to 67-46 at the 11:14 mark with a layup by Derrick Randall. Pitt’s largest lead of the game was 26 points and the Panthers held a lead of 11 or more the entire second half.
Lamar Patterson led the Panthers with 18 points and was one of five Pitt players to reach double figures as he was joined by Cameron Wright (13), Randall (11) and Michael Young and Zanna each with 10 points.
Zanna also had a season-high 15 rebounds for his fourth double-double.
Paul Zeise: firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter @paulzeise. First Published December 14, 2013 3:52 PM