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November 21, 2013

After early stretch, Pitt is headed to Brooklyn

Lehigh might have Dr. Brett Reed as a coach - but they no longer have C.J. McCollum in the backcourt.

Wednesday night, Reed would've been ecstatic to have Durand Johnson on his side, but the Baltimore product is a Panther, and he lit the Mountain Hawks up during an exhilarating 13-minute stint in the middle of the first half.

Johnson hit five 3-pointers on 5-of-6 shooting and helped the Panthers jump out to a huge lead. The final score was 77-58, but Johnson's first half blitz all but decided the game before halftime.

Pitt point guard James Robinson - 11 assists and 0 turnovers - said studying Lehigh defensively gave Pitt a feeling they might be able to get open shots.

"I think we had a pretty good understanding of how they were going to rotate in terms of defending the ball-screens," said Johnson. "My guys did a tremendous job of catching the ball and finishing and i think tonight that went across the board. Everybody finished plays. My job is to get them the ball and let them do their job which is score." Robinson then continued to talk about Johnson's play specifically.

"Durand pretty much told me he was gonna be on tonight," said Robinson. "And he hit that first three and I knew he was gonna be hot so I just kept getting him the ball and he kept coming through - he's a scorer." A scorer that Reed said the Mountain Hawks tried to focus on in their scouting report.

"Johnson was a guy we knew was capable and we tried to be there for him and contest," said Reed afterwards. "Obviously we needed to do a better job but he's a really good player." Johnson said he wasn't feeling so good after his last performance, so he wanted to come out with a good game against Lehigh.

"Last game I felt bad I felt down on myself," said Johnson. "I shot 0-4 from the three and I wanted to come out tonight with more confidence and be shot ready. My teammates found me and I was able to knock down shots."

Johnson had plenty of help as the Panthers shot 11-26 from deep. Lamar Patterson hit 3-7 bombs and young big man Mike Young also connected from deep. Patterson continues to do a bit of everything on the young season, scoring 17 points, grabbing 5 boards and dishing out 4 assists. Talib Zanna finished with 23 and 14.

One bright spot for Lehigh was the play of Tim Kempton. The first year post - and son of former Notre Dame star Tim Kempton - finished with a career high 20 points on 6-9 shooting. "My teammates got me the ball in space and I was able to use my counters to score in the post," said Kempton.

Defending inside will probably be a focus of Pitt practices the rest of this week. Jamie Dixon did say he pulled back on his team's post defense aggressiveness in the second half, but Kempton really just had his way on too many possessions. I'm thinking Dixon will address that.

So Pitt has passed the early season class, if you will. Next, the Panthers will move into some first-quarter exams as the competition ramps up a few pegs.

One thing the Panthers know they have is a player capable of getting buckets quickly and in bunches. In short, Durand Johnson can go off.

And that can only help their confidence as they head to Brooklyn, ready to face their next tests as a team.






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