Pittsburgh pulls away from Penn State 78-69
James Robinson added 10 points for Pitt (8-0), including consecutive fast break layups with less than 3 minutes to play to turn aside one final rally by the Nittany Lions (6-3).
Tim Frazier led Penn State with 27 points but the Nittany Lions fell to Pitt for the sixth straight time. D.J. Newbill chipped in 18 but Penn State couldn't keep up when Pitt turned up the pressure down the stretch.
The Nittany Lions took a 59-58 lead on a layup by Donovon Jack with 5:15 left but Pitt responded with an 11-3 burst to take control.
Zanna and Robinson were in the thick of it. Robinson hit a pair of free throws to give the Panthers a 60-59 lead. The teams traded 3-pointers when Zanna blocked a Newbill layup attempt, starting a fast break that ended with Robinson snaking in for a layup. The Nittany Lions called timeout to settle things down, but Robinson knocked the ball away from Frazier then chased it down on his way to a lay-up that pushed the lead to 67-62.
The Nittany Lions missed on their next possession and Zanna clinched it with the kind of play the Panthers will need from him if they want to compete in their first year in the ACC. He backed his way into the left block then appeared to lose control. He corralled the ball and signaled to a teammate as if to say ''it's OK'' then dropped a hook shot from 5-feet to push Pitt's advantage to 69-62.
Frazier responded with a quick layup, but the Nittany Lions would get no closer.
Pitt shot just 2 of 11 from 3-point range but overcame it by outrebounding the Nittany Lions 38-29 and having its way in the lane in the second half.
The teams used to meet sporadically over the last three decades before the series hit pause indefinitely eight years ago when then Penn State coach Ed DeChellis opted to stop playing the Panthers after Pitt ripped off five straight relatively lopsided wins.
The players on the court Tuesday weren't even in high school at the time. The renewal served as more as a litmus test for where both programs are after promising Novembers than a true showdown.
The Panthers came in 7-0 for the eighth time in the last 13 years led by a versatile offense that came in averaging 82 points game.
The going would be considerably tougher in the early going against the Nittany Lions, who slowed the game, often handing the ball to Frazier in the waning seconds of the shot clock and asking him to go to work.
It wasn't a problem. Frazier had little trouble getting to the basket, breaking down the Panthers off the dribble and attacking whoever happened to be in the way. He scored 13 points before the break, including a twisting layup that gave Penn State a 30-28 lead at half and marking the first time all season the Panthers haven't led heading into the final 20 minutes.