Pitt eclipses Big East shooting record in regular-season finale
J.J. Moore, left, is pressured by DePaul's Jamee Crockett in the second half of what was a perfect shooting game for Moore in Pitt's win in Rosemont, Ill.
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ROSEMONT, Ill. -- Pitt left the Big East Conference with a bang Saturday. In its 525th and final regular-season game as a member of the conference, the Panthers set a record for shooting percentage in a Big East Conference game in a 81-66 victory against DePaul at Allstate Arena
Pitt shot 71.7 percent (33 for 46), besting the previous record of 71.4 percent, set most recently by Syracuse in 2011. The Panthers also set a school record for shooting percentage in a game, besting the 70.8 percent mark they set in the season opener Nov. 9 against Mount St. Mary's.
Reserve forward J.J. Moore was a big reason why. Moore was 8 for 8 from the field, including a scintillating 5 for 5 from 3-point range, and tied his career high with 21 points to lead the Panthers.
With the victory, No. 20 Pitt (24-7, 12-6) will enter the Big East tournament on a four-game winning streak. The Panthers finished their final season in the league in fourth place and receive a double bye to the quarterfinals at the Big East tournament, which begins Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden in New York.
Pitt is the No. 4 seed and will play at 2 p.m. Thursday against Syracuse, South Florida or Seton Hall. The Panthers will not know their opponent until late Wednesday afternoon.
The Panthers put on a brilliant offensive show against the Blue Demons. Cameron Wright (3 for 3) and Dante Taylor (3 for 3) also were perfect from the field. Senior guard Tray Woodall was 8 for 11 and contributed 18 points.
"We're an unselfish team," Woodall said. "The guys took what the defense gave us. Guys penetrated and got guys shots, and guys took the open shots. When a team does that, only great things can happen. We have guys who can penetrate. We have guys who can create for others and we have guys who can knock down shots. We're a team that's hard to stop."
Pitt got off to a great start and led, 46-35, at halftime. The Panthers shot 76 percent (19 for 25) in the first half. Strangely enough, DePaul coach Oliver Purnell was optimistic about his team's chances when he headed to the locker room at halftime.
"I felt good at halftime," Purnell said. "They shot in the 70s and we're only down 11. I thought, my goodness, they're definitely going to cool off, but they didn't cool down much."
Pitt cooled down to shoot 67 percent in the second half. Moore scored 11 of his 21 points and drilled three of his five 3-pointers after halftime. They all came in a span of 2:32 early in the second half.
"J.J. played really well," Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said. "When he makes shots he makes us a really good team, really hard to guard."
About the only thing Moore did wrong was celebrate a little too much after his fifth 3-pointer. He was whistled for a technical foul for taunting.
No one could blame Moore for being excited. It's not like it has been a banner season for him shooting 3-pointers. He entered the game shooting 30 percent from 3-point range and hadn't made more than three in a game this season.
"We just tell him to take good shots and stay with it," Dixon said. "We really hoped he could be a guy who could stretch the floor for us and shoot a higher percentage. I guess if this is the time for it to happen it would be a good time. We felt all along that he'd be a guy at that spot who would be a difference-maker offensively, and [Saturday] he was."
Moore led another strong effort from Pitt's reserves. The bench scored 40 points. Wright had seven and Taylor and Durand Johnson each had six.
"They have 10 players that all can play," Purnell said. "It's not like they're going to the bench and there's going to be a drop-off. They have tremendous balance. They're a good team. They're balanced. They defend. They're physical. Not a lot of people talk about them in terms of being a threat to go deep in the NCAA tournament or win the Big East championship, but I think they very definitely are."
NOTES -- Freshman center Steven Adams, who missed the Villanova game a week ago with an ankle injury, started and had eight points and four rebounds in 21 minutes. ... Pitt outrebounded DePaul, 27-15. ... Woodall had 7 rebounds, 4 assists and 4 turnovers to go along with his 18 points. ... Dixon said after the game that Woodall injured a knee late in the first half, but it did not deter him from playing in the second half. ... Freshman guard James Robinson played with an injured thumb on his left hand. He took one shot and scored two points. ... Brandon Young led the Blue Demons with 22 points.
First Published March 10, 2013 12:00 am