Pitt crushes Colorado in first NCAA tournament game, 77-48

ORLANDO, Fla. -- There are many ways to describe what Pitt did to Colorado Thursday, but none of them are probably strong enough for just how one-sided it was.

Like, "Pitt whacked Colorado?"

Or, "Pitt thrashed Colorado?"

Pitt players discuss 77-48 win over Colorado

Pitt's Cameron Wright, Michael Young and James Robinson discuss their team's win over Colorado in the second round of the NCAA tournament in Orlando. (Video by Matt Freed; 3/20/2014)

Maybe, "the Panthers stampeded the Buffaloes?"

No, none of those phrases really captures how dominant the No. 9 seed Panthers were in their 77-48 win against No. 8 Colorado in the second round of the NCAA tournament at Amway Center.

Pitt made such quick work of the Buffaloes that the outcome was hardly ever in doubt.

"The defensive effort and focus and intensity we had was pathetic," said Colorado coach Tad Boyle.

The Panthers (26-9) advance and will play No. 1 seed Florida (33-2) in a third-round matchup Saturday, looking for their first Sweet 16 berth since the DeJuan Blair-led team made it to the Elite Eight in 2009.

The Gators had all kinds of trouble with No. 16 seed Albany in the second game of the doubleheader, but pulled away late to win, 67-55, and avoid becoming the first No. 1 seed to lose to a No. 16.

Pitt's margin of victory was its largest for an NCAA tournament game and also the biggest blowout in tournament history by a No. 9 seed against a No. 8.

It was the second-largest margin by any team in the No. 8-No. 9 game. Michigan, a No. 8 seed in 2011, beat No. 9 seed Tennessee, 75-45.

Pitt also had its largest halftime lead, 46-18, in an NCAA tournament game, its largest this season and its second-largest on a neutral court.

Pitt used its swarming man-to-man defense in the first half to snuff the life out of Colorado's offense and turn steals and rebounds into transition points.

The Panthers needed a little less than five minutes to take their first double-digit lead at 11-0, which they stretched to 13-0, and took their first 20-point lead on a layup by Josh Newkirk with 7:44 to play in the first half.

Colorado (23-12) was just 5 of 17 from the field in the first half and had 10 turnovers while the Panthers shot 18 of 29 from the field and turned over the ball just once.

Pitt had 24 of its 46 first-half points in the paint and 12 points off turnovers. Leading the charge was Talib Zanna, who had 16 of his 18 points in the first half.

"Obviously our defense got us going in the first half and it was aggressiveness," said coach Jamie Dixon, who beat a higher-seeded team for the first time. "We really wanted to take away their post offense and we did that early, and that was evident.

"And we had 13 assists and one turnover in the first half, and that speaks volumes. We took good shots and that set the trend."

Zanna added: "[Defensively] we were just trying to set a tone. The energy, you can tell the energy was there and the focus. The first five minutes, we played really good defense and from there we just tried to get a lot of stops and just run the floor and we had wide-open layups."

Lamar Patterson said the easy offense was a reward for playing great defense.

"I think we figured out Dixon's formula," Patterson said. "If we play defense like that, he will let us play a little bit."

In the second half, Pitt pushed its lead to 32 before both teams went deep into their benches.

Pitt was 31 of 61 from the field, but at one point was shooting better than 60 percent.

The Panthers also outrebounded the Buffaloes, 33-29, but at one point that margin was closer to 10, and held a 44-14 edge in points in the paint.

But perhaps the most telling statistic is assist-to-turnover ratio. Pitt had 18 assists and only three turnovers while Colorado had five assists and 17 turnovers.

Pitt had 12 steals and all five starters, led by James Robinson and Cameron Wright who had three apiece, had at least one.

"You look at our rebounding, we are down, 15-8, at the half on the boards," Boyle said. "They are shooting, at that point, 62 percent and we've got zero assists and 10 turnovers. It is pretty simple -- we have to take care of the ball better, we've got to guard better and we've got to rebound better.

"We did none of those things."

Zanna led the way with 18 points and five rebounds, Wright added 11 points and Lamar Patterson had 10. Pitt had 11 players score.

Colorado was led by Josh Scott, who had 14 points and six rebounds.

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

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