Pitt forward Sheldon Jeter dunks on N.C. State players.
Pitt guard Chris Jones reaches for a loose ball against N.C. State guard Maverick Rowan Tuesday at Petersen Events Center.
Pitt head coach Jamie Dixon waits for an explanation on a call as his team takes on North Carolina State in the second half of Tuesday's game at Petersen Events Center.
North Carolina State's BeeJay Anya dunks in front of Pitt's Jamel Artis and Rafael Maia in the first half Tuesday at Petersen Events Center.
By Paul Zeise / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
N.C. State’s mascot is from the canine family but Tuesday night — like most nights — it was a feline that led them.
Point guard Anthony “Cat” Barber scored 31 points and had eight assists to lead the Wolfpack to a 78-61 blowout win against Pitt at Petersen Events Center.
The Wolfpack led by as many as 28 points in the first half, by 25 at halftime and controlled the game the rest of the way, even though the Panthers made a couple of runs early in the second half.
“I thought the first half, on both ends of the floor, was our best half of the season,” N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried said. “We defended really well and did a great job of not allowing a lot of second-chance points. They had only two offensive rebounds in the first half, that was the key in how we started the game.
“It is hard when you get such a big lead to keep the foot on the pedal, and I thought we got tentative defensively in the second half, but we just beat a really good basketball team.”
It was a much needed win for the Wolfpack (11-8, 1-5 ACC) as they came into the game still searching for their first conference victory and got it on the road in a hostile environment.
On the flip side, this was a tough loss for Pitt (15-3, 4-2) because the Panthers now must go on the road for a tough two-game road trip — Saturday at Florida State and then next Wednesday at Clemson.
Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said that there are a lot of reasons the Panthers lost this one, but the bottom line is they didn’t play close to good enough to win a game against an ACC opponent.
“I really felt good about what we are doing coming into the game but that came to a quick end at the start the game,” Dixon said.
“You can’t put yourself in the situation where you are down 25 in the first half. Yeah, we showed some fight but to be outrebounded by 13 in the first half and be down by 25, you have to play a perfect second half to come back and win.
“We certainly didn’t do anything well, I thought their big guys controlled the interior and with the rebounding and with Barber, they played better than us. It was a disappointing loss, a bad loss for us because you know where we stand on home losses — you can’t have them.”
The Panthers, who trailed, 44-19, at the half, were outrebounded, 46-30, overall and had no answer for the Wolfpack’s frontcourt.
Pitt also made only 22 of 60 shots from the field (36.7 percent), but that was because they picked it up in the second half. The Panthers made only 25 percent of their first-half field-goal attempts (7 of 28).
And, while missed shots often turn into second-chance points for the Panthers, Dixon pointed out they missed 21 shots in the first half and came up with only two offensive rebounds and two second-chance points.
Panthers forward Jamel Artis said containing Barber was tough, but he explained that the larger issue was how the Wolfpack pushed them around and did whatever they wanted inside.
“They were tougher than us,” Artis said.
“They hit us first from the start of the first five or six minutes, and it is tough to come back from 25 points. We let ourselves down, we gave the game up. This was a lack of toughness. This is a sad loss.”
The first half began poorly for the Panthers and didn’t get any better, mostly because of Barber and the Wolfpack’s dominance on the boards. N.C. State rushed to a 12-4 lead then used a 10-2 run — while the Panthers missed nine field-goal attempts in a row — to take a 22-6 lead on back-to-back 3-pointers by Maverick Rowan.
Barber followed with a steal and a transition layup and completed the 3-point play after he was fouled.
The rout was on as the Wolfpack led, 24-6, with 9:49 to play in the first half.
Rowan, who is from Lincoln Park High School and originally committed to Pitt before signing with N.C. State, was booed loudly every time he touched the ball. He scored 14 points.
Paul Zeise: email@example.com, 412-263-1720 and Twitter @paulzeise.
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