Pitt 73, La Salle 69.
Here is the early game story.
Notes from the game
*** Center Dante Taylor sat the final nine minutes of the second half after spending a minute or two on the floor being looked at by Pitt’s trainers.
He returned to play 14 minutes in the second half and finished with 11 points and six rebounds. His follow-up dunk was one of the highlights of Pitt’s 9-0 run that turned a 53-52 deficit into a 61-53 lead the Panthers would never relinquish.
“He got elbowed in the neck and I think he was having trouble breathing,” Dixon said of Taylor. “They told me he couldn’t go for the rest of the first half. Once we got into halftime they told me he could go. He finished stronger in the second half.”
*** Junior point guard Tray Woodall made the defensive play of the young season, blocking Sam Mills with seven seconds to play on a breakaway layup attempt. Woodall, who added 12 points and 10 assists, blocked a career-high three shots.
“I just didn’t want to give him the easy layup,” Woodall said. “Normally, I would try to contest the shot and make it difficult for him. At that point in the game we needed a block.”
*** J.J. Moore had his best game of the season with nine points, six rebounds and one assist in 19 minutes. He made all three of his 3-pointers. Freshman Khem Birch, who has moved to center, had four points, six rebounds (including a game-high four offensive boards) and three blocked shots. After playing power forward for much of the early season while Nasir Robinson was out following knee surgery, Birch is at center.
“As practice went by I got more confidence and I know what to do out there,” Birch said. “Now I have more confidence. I’m going to make more plays and, hopefully, I can do that in other games.”
*** Ashton Gibbs had a tough game, finishing 3 for 15 from the field. He scored 14 points, but half of them came from the free throw line. La Salle guard Sam Mills made things tough on the Big East pre-season player of the year all night.
“(Mills) played ridiculous defense on Ashton Gibbs,” La Salle coach John Giannini said.
*** Jamie Dixon called the length-of-the-court quarterback pass from Lamar Patterson to Tray Woodall for an easy layup and a 72-66 lead with 1:00 minute to play. Patterson, whose brother Perry played quarterback at Syracuse, made a perfect pass to the streaking Woodall.
“Lamar is always talking how he should be the quarterback on our football team,” Woodall said.
*** Pitt outrebounded La Salle, 42-24, and nine different players had at least three boards. Nasir Robinson, Dante Taylor and Birch each had six. Pitt was outrebounded in the loss to Long Beach State.
“We don’t accept that,” Taylor said. “We’ve got to play like the underdogs and come out and play every night.”
*** Pitt turned the ball over 21 times, with a number of sloppy miscues. The Panthers had 12 turnovers in the first half and one in the final seconds leading by three. Robinson and Woodall each had four, and Gibbs and Talib Zanna had three.
Jamie Dixon quotes
“We were able to find a way. Back to rebounding, which was a big emphasis. We outrebounded them by 18. That was good to see.”
“I really feel we have a lot of opportunity to improve. Twenty one turnovers, it’s hard to believe. …The turnovers kept holding us back, holding us back.”
ON LA SALLE’s PRESS
“We had two seniors with the ball and they made passes that they normally don’t do. We’ll learn from it and go forward. We knew it was coming. We prepared for it. We are usually good against it.”
“I thought our half-court defense was very good. It was improved and that’s good to see.”
ON BENCH PLAY FROM RESERVE OFF GUARDS JOHNSON AND WRIGHT
“We’ve got to find somebody there to give us some minutes. That’s obvious. We’ve got to get a little bit more, not so much production, but just solid play out of that spot.”
ON BIRCH’S MOVE TO CENTER
“He’s more effective there. We knew that. He was playing both. Now he’s got to get more comfortable playing there.”
ON FINAL PLAY OF FIRST HALF
“We take a shot with five seconds left in the half, which is when you’re supposed to shoot it, and we end up giving up a layup. Those are things that just can’t happen.”