N.C. State dominated Pittsburgh in the first half on Saturday afternoon but came out flat in the second as the Panthers manhandled the Wolfpack in a 74-62 massacre at PNC Arena.
In its ACC debut, Pittsburgh (13-1, 1-0 ACC) shot 63 percent from the floor in the second half, attacking the rim at will against a lifeless Wolfpack defense. The Panthers’ defense also disrupted State’s offensive rhythm, forcing 16 turnovers to tie a season high for the Pack (10-4, 0-1 ACC).
The Panthers held State’s primary scorer, sophomore forward T.J. Warren, scoreless for the majority of the second half, forcing the Wolfpack to rely on its role players on the offensive end. But freshman guard Anthony “Cat” Barber and junior guard Desmond Lee, State’s two other leading scorers, combined for 14 points on a dismal 3-15 shooting performance.
N.C. State’s head coach Mark Gottfried said the Pack’s failure to match the Panthers’ scrappiness for rebounds and loose balls doomed his team.
“I thought in the second half, it was real simple: They were tougher than our team was,” head coach Mark Gottfried said. “They got after loose balls, they pushed the ball on the break and we did not respond.”
“In the second half we came out and had very little energy. Our young guys better learn that at this level, if you do that, you’re going to see results like you saw today.”
Pitt started the game slowly, but outscored the Wolfpack 26-10 in the paint in the second half. The Panthers were led by a great all-around performance from senior guard Lamar Patterson, who racked up 22 points, eight rebounds and six assists.
Among the lone bright spots for State was its superb performance from the free-throw line. The Pack hit 93 percent of its free throws against the Panthers, going 14-15 from the stripe, a vast improvement on its 64.2 percent mark entering Saturday’s contest. But the Wolfpack couldn’t stop the Panthers on the defensive end, nullifying State’s best performance at the free-throw line this season.
“We have to look at our own selves in the mirror,” junior guard Ralston Turner said. “We can’t point any fingers. There’s nobody to blame. We just have to be better.”
N.C. State dominated the first half, starting the game on a 17-2 run and forcing the Panthers into an early hole. But the Panthers settled in as the half progressed, slowly chipping away at State’s lead until the halftime buzzer. The Wolfpack held a 34-26 lead at the half.
But Pitt launched into a 21-6 run to start the second half, taking the lead for good at 15:29 on a three-point play by junior guard Cameron Wright.
“It was kind of like a prizefight in boxing,” Gottfried said. “If somebody punches you a couple of times, you better make a decision whether or not you’re going to respond, and we did not respond to their aggressiveness in the second half.”
The deflated Wolfpack didn’t fight back until a left-handed hook shot at 9:30 by freshman forward Kyle Washington brought the previously subdued PNC Arena crowd to life.
But it was too little too late, as senior forward Talib Zanna’s three-point play at 5:40 essentially sealed the win as Pitt eased its way to the finish line.