No. 17 Pitt pulls away for 78-58 win over Penn
On its home court, Penn should have worn the road uniforms.
”Let’s Go Pitt!” echoed throughout the Palestra, the booming
cheer easily drowning out the few Quakers fans in the
Against the Panthers and their fans, Penn could not come out a
Led by Tyler Bernardini and Zack Rosen, the Quakers put a
serious scare into No. 17 Pittsburgh until the Panthers pulled away
late for a 78-58 win in the Philly Hoop Group Classic on Friday
”Any time you’ve got a nationally ranked team on the floor, you
have a chance to show you’re made of,” Penn coach Jerome Allen
Bernrdini and Rosen helped Penn (3-3) hang tight before the
Panthers stretched the lead in front of the pro-Pitt crowd. Rosen
led the Quakers with 22 points on 6 of 10 3-pointers. Bernardini
”It can never help us, just hanging tough,” Allen said. ”Our
expectations are to win.”
Khem Birch had 15 points and 10 rebounds and Ashton Gibbs scored
16 points for Pitt. The Panthers (4-1) got the 20-point victory
over inferior competition they badly needed after struggling the
last three games. Pitt was upset at home by Long Beach State last
week. Rider and La Salle gave the Panthers fits in two other
Pressed into service with starting center Dante Taylor out with
migraines, Birch settled down and showed flashes of the
game-changing plays he’s expected to contribute. His 15 points were
seven more than his season total over the first four games.
”As the game went on, I got into a flow,” Birch said.
He found his flow midway through the first half.
Birch had a thunderous dunk, then a block on the next possession
that led to a Pitt layup for a 28-18 lead.
Birch is just the second McDonald’s All-American to sign with
the Panthers. The Panthers lost three starters off a team that won
the Big East regular season title last winter, giving Birch the
opportunity to quickly become part of the core that could
eventually lead the Panthers to the Final Four.
”He’s got a good feel, so there’s things that you can grow with
and build with,” coach Jamie Dixon said. ”That’s something you
The Panthers also played without starting small forward Lamar
Patterson, who started a two-game suspension. Dixon said Patterson
was suspended for disciplinary reasons. He also said Taylor was not
suffering a concussion after taking a hit to the head in their last
Pitt also lost forward Talib Zanna in the second half with an
apparent knee injury. He slipped and was down on the court before
he hobbled to a seat on the bench. He rubbed his right knee for
several minutes. Dixon said Zanna was fine.
Pitt fans totally took over. Some Pitt fans, who surely love
their Steelers, chanted E-A-G-L-E-S! Eagles! for Philadelphia
running back and former Pitt star LeSean McCoy.
”I think that’s why sometimes teams don’t want us to play in
their big arenas, because we have so many alumni in those areas,”
Dixon said. ”We had a lot of Pitt people here and it was great to
The Quakers, out of the Ivy League, kept firing 3s and stayed
close when they connected. When Bernardini sank one that sliced the
deficit to seven, Dixon punched his fist in the air in anger.
Dixon wasn’t happy again after Rosen and Bernardini hit two
straight 3-pointers that made it a nine-point game. Rosen buried
one to make it 51-43.
”He’s as good as any guard we’ll play this year,” Dixon said
Penn made six of 11 3s in the second half and outrebounded Pitt
for the game, 32-30.
The fun ended for the Quakers when the shots went cold.
”We had a lot of lapses and our overall effort was not good,”
The Panthers, who torched the Quakers inside for 13 layups in
the first half, went outside to build their lead. Gibbs, who had
three points at the break, hit a baseline 3 and J.J. Moore followed
with one of his own to make it 59-47.
Nasir Robinson, of nearby Chester, Pa., punctuated the win with
a fastbreak dunk that brought the Pitt fans to their feet.
Robinson scored 14 points and Moore had 12.