Pitt center Talib Zanna said the Panthers were "mad" after their loss Saturday against Syracuse and wanted to "take it out" on Clemson, who happened to be their first opponent after the Orange.
Panthers coach Jamie Dixon said the Panthers "practiced angry" because they knew they let that game slip away and wanted to prove they could play a lot better against a good team.
Mission accomplished ... and then some.
The Panthers jumped on the Tigers from the start Tuesday night, led by 17 by halftime and rolled to an impressive, 76-43 victory before a crowd of 12,508 at the Petersen Events Center.
It was exactly the kind of bounce-back win the Panthers (17-2, 5-1 ACC) needed after that loss, and the win put them in a second-place tie with Virginia (14-5, 5-1).
The 33-point margin of victory represented the fourth-largest winning margin by a Pitt team in a conference game. And if it sounds like it was a blowout, that's mostly because it was.
"We had a good practice yesterday," Zanna said. "We were ready for them and we talked about it in the film [session]. We were kinda mad about losing to Syracuse, it was a big motivation."
Dixon added, "We grew up a lot the last couple of days, and how you handle a very disappointing loss -- there is no other way to [describe the loss] -- how are you going to handle it? Is there going to be a carry over, are you going to be down after that loss, I was concerned about that.
"But we responded well with practice on Sunday, on Monday guys were out here early, and they looked more angry than disappointed and then you wonder how they were going to handle it."
Dixon said the Panthers also got motivation from the fact that the Tigers were leading the conference in field-goal percentage defense and were holding teams to 36 percent from the field. He spent two days challenging his players to prove they were better than the Tigers defensively.
Pitt proved to be up to the challenge as the Panthers held Clemson to less than 36 percent from the field (16 of 50, 32 percent) and the Panthers ravaged the Tigers defense, shooting 56.3 percent from the field (27 of 48) and 53.3 percent from the 3-point line (8 of 15).
Tigers coach Brad Brownell said before the game it was important for his team to get off to a fast start that might take the crowd out of the equation quickly.
Instead, the Panthers jumped to an 11-2 start thanks to some slick passing that led to easy baskets.
"That was really bad because, our guys, we don't believe yet that we are really ready all the time," Brownell said. "We have a false sense of bravado. Like most young people, they believe 'yeah, we are ready for all of this' and then you get slapped in the face a little [and] there is nowhere to hide. It showed.
"This is an unbelievable place to play, and we just didn't respond. It was really our first time in a very difficult environment, and I think our guys played like a young team, certainly in the first half, I thought we gave them six points when we just handed them ball.
"Credit Pitt, though, they played really well with a large lead."
Pitt continued its onslaught and pushed its lead to double figures at 20-8 on a 3-pointer by James Robinson with 11:34 left in the half and the Tigers never got within 10 points the rest of the way, They trailed by 20 or more nearly the entire second half.
One measure of just how good the Panthers were offensively while building a 37-20 halftime lead, was this: Pitt had 12 assists and 12 field goals and finished the game with 24 assists on 27 field goals.
James Robinson, who had nine points and eight assists, said that the Panthers unselfishness and willingness to make the extra pass is one reason they are hard to defend.
"From the start of the game, we just wanted to play our style and play as hard as we can," Robinson said. "It is a lot of fun, and we have a very unselfish team when someone gives a shot up to pass, it comes back around and eventually you are on the other end of it [and get a shot for yourself].
"We are just unselfish by nature, that is something that comes to us but it wasn't easy, there is a lot of preparation comes into it."
The Panthers onslaught continued after the half, and any thoughts of a Clemson comeback was erased by Pitt's 17-4 run to start the second half.
Zanna led the Panthers with 22 points, Lamar Patterson had 13 and Cameron Wright had 12. K.J. McDaniels led Clemson (13-5, 4-2) with 11 points, five less than his average.
Pitt will visit Maryland (11-8, 3-3) Saturday, then wait for the showdown with No. 18 and visiting Duke (14-4, 3-2) next Monday.
That last fact prompted the Oakland Zoo -- Pitt's student section -- to spend much of the final 10 minutes chanting "We want Duke ..." But Zanna offered some words of caution: "We have to worry about Maryland first."
Paul Zeise: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1720 and Twitter @paulzeise.
First Published January 21, 2014 10:23 PM