Pitt's depth, balance crush DePaul
Pitt's Cameron Wright drives to the basket against DePaul's Cleveland Melvin in the first half Saturday at Petersen Events Center.
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When most college basketball coaches call on their reserves to enter a game there is a dropoff in production. The starters, of course, are starting for a reason.
Pitt coach Jamie Dixon has no such worries. His reserves are just as capable as his starting five, and they proved it Saturday afternoon when the Panthers used their depth to drill DePaul, 93-55, at Petersen Events Center.
Pitt's bench accounted for 52 points. Reserve guard Trey Zeigler scored a game-high 18 to lead all scorers, but he was not the only one to have a star next to his name on the score sheet. In a phenomenal demonstration of balanced scoring, the Panthers had nine players with seven points or more in a rout that was basically over by halftime.
"We have a lot of balance, a lot of great players," said Zeigler, who recorded his season high. "When you have 10 guys who all bring something to the table, you'll have nights like this."
It was an historic day for Pitt, playing its final season in the Big East. Barring another blowout in the final 10 regular-season games, this will go down as the biggest rout in the record book. The 38-point victory was the Panthers' largest in a Big East game. The previous record was a 36-point win against West Virginia in 2003.
"In this league, you're going to play good people and you rarely think you're going to have a game like this," Dixon said. "It just doesn't happen. For whatever reason, it did. I think our unselfishness was a big part of it. Once we got ahead, we didn't look for our own. We looked for each other, and that was the key to sustaining it."
Pitt's bench has been productive all season, but the reserves have been playing lights out in recent games. It's the second time in the past four the reserves have outscored the starters. It also happened in a victory at Villanova, Pitt's first in its current four-game winning streak.
With the victory against DePaul, Pitt (17-4, 5-3 Big East) moved into sole possession of third place in the conference standings.
"We're coming together as a unit," senior guard Tray Woodall said. "We have 10 guys who bring it every day."
The only starter to reach double figures was forward Lamar Patterson, who continued his hot streak with 15 points. He has scored 73 points in the past five games and notched his 15 points in only 16 minutes due to some early foul trouble.
Patterson's absence was no problem the way the reserves were playing. Zeigler got plenty of help from his fellow bench players. J.J. Moore had 10 points, Dante Taylor had nine, Cameron Wright eight and Durand Johnson seven.
Wright, who did not play in Pitt's victory Tuesday night at Providence, was 4 for 5 from the field and contributed 4 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals in 21 minutes.
"The coaching staff has faith in everyone," Wright said. "We all have faith in each other. We try to bring a lot of energy to the team."
Dixon second-guessed himself after the Providence game for not playing Wright. He said in the days leading up to the DePaul game that he vowed to get back to a 10-man rotation.
"I should have played Cameron the last game and made sure he was in there early," Dixon said.
"I think he makes us a better team when he's out there."
DePaul, which beat Pitt last year, shot 27 percent from the field and was no match for the Panthers inside. The Panthers outrebounded the Blue Demons, 58-34, and pulled down 20 offensive rebounds. They outscored the Blue Demons, 48-16, in the lane.
Freshman center Steven Adams scored nine points and tied his career high with 14 rebounds.
Five players had at least five rebounds.
Here's another stat you don't see every day: every player who played for Pitt had at least 1 point, 1 rebound and 1 assist.
"I think it's a strength of ours and something we've been using all year long," Dixon said of his team's depth. "What's happening is guys have gotten better, and it's the newer guys who are getting better. Zeigler is a better player than he was in November and so is Cameron.
"That's something that I envisioned and thought was going to occur because of their newness to the program and the adjustments they would have to make. It allows us a lot more versatility."
NOTES -- Pitt has a quick turnaround with a game Monday night at Louisville, which has lost three consecutive games after ascending to No. 1 in the polls. ... DePaul's starting five combined to shoot 9 for 46 from the field. Brandon Young led the Blue Demons with 13 points, but he was 3 for 16 from the field. "This is one we'd like to flush away and burn the tape," DePaul coach Oliver Purnell said afterward... Pitt committed a season-high 18 turnovers.
First Published January 27, 2013 12:00 am