Pitt tougher than NC State in ACC debut

jgiglio@newsobserver.comJanuary 4, 2014 

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    Observations

    — N.C. State wasted its best free-throw shooting game of the season. The Pack went 14 of 15 from the line, including its first 11. For the season, State entered the game just 64.2 percent from the line.

    — It was surprising to see Pitt, which mainly plays man defense, go zone for a long stretch in the first half. The Panthers played mostly man in the second half, which they won 48-28.

    N.C. State had a disastrous stretch in the second half when it went zone for a few minutes. The Pack doesn’t play a lot of zone for a reason.

    — Pitt finished with 13 steals, which is the most by a Wolfpack opponent this season. Five players had at least two and junior guard Cameron Wright, who was responsible for defending T.J. Warren, had three.

— Mark Gottfried didn’t have much use for a box score or any statistical analysis after N.C. State’s first ACC game.

The Wolfpack watched Pittsburgh, in its ACC debut, erase a 15-point deficit and win going away, 74-62 on Saturday at PNC Arena.

The reason? Real simple, the Wolfpack coach said.

“They were tougher than our team was,” Gottfried said.

After a miserable start, Pitt (13-1, 1-0 ACC) turned up the aggressiveness, with 22 points and six assists from senior Lamar Patterson, and left the Wolfpack humbled after a second-half collapse.

“The second half we didn’t come out with any energy and they were pretty much the tougher team,” junior guard Ralston Turner said. “There’s no other way around it.”

N.C. State (10-4, 0-1) got 23 points from sophomore forward T.J. Warren but little help from elsewhere in the lineup. Turner pitched in 11 points and freshman Cat Barber had nine points and seven assists but the Pack turned the ball over 16 times, which matched its season high.

The turnovers and dependency on Warren bothered Gottfried, who was understandably irritated after the loss, but not as much as the lack of energy and enthusiasm from his players in the second half.

Both qualities had been a trademark for the young team in nonconference play but the lack of either bothered Gottfried on Saturday.

“We had great energy for the first 15, 18 minutes of the game and we came out in the second half and looked stunned,” Gottfried said.

“We looked around at each other and we were staring at one other and I didn’t see that same energy and enthusiasm that we’ve had this year.”

The Pack could not have asked for a better start. Pitt was just 1 of 9 from the floor and Warren had nine quick points as State built a 17-2 lead at the 14-minute mark of the first half.

Jamel Artis and Josh Newkirk, a pair of freshmen, came off the bench to jumpstart Pitt, which trailed 34-26 at the half. Patterson and forward Talib Zanna (15 points, nine rebounds), both seniors, took over in the second half.

Patterson had 17 points and five assists in the second half. The Panthers made 10 of their first 12 shots in the second half.

Patterson got to the basket at will in the second half, which was an example of State’s aforementioned toughness issues.

Pitt had eight points in the paint in the first half but finished with 34, it added 18 points on the fastbreak in the second half.

Patterson had a 3-pointer and a three-point play during Pitt’s 21-6 burst to open the second half. Patterson’s assist to junior guard Cameron Wright at 15:29, which Wright turned into a three-point play, gave Pitt a 41-38 lead, its first of the game.

A three-point play from Zanna with 5:40 left put Pitt up 63-52 and for all intents and purposes closed the door on Pitt’s first ACC win.

Warren made a difficult runner at 15:12 and then didn’t have another field goal until there was 54 seconds left in the game. Gottfried said before the season he didn’t want this team to rely too much on Warren, the ACC’s leading scorer.

Barber and junior guard Desmond Lee have done a job in supporting scoring roles but the two combined to shoot 3 of 15 from the floor on Saturday for 14 total points.

It only counts as one loss in the ACC standings, but Turner said N.C. State needs to learn from Saturday’s loss and avoid any repeats, in terms of effort and lack of energy.

“We have to look at our own selves in the mirror,” Turner said. “We can’t really point any fingers, there’s no one to blame. We need to be better.”

Giglio: 919-829-8938

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