Pitt had its hands full at times against Kentucky Wesleyan at the Petersen Events Center on Monday night, but the Panthers finished their two-game exhibition season with a 76-67 win over the Division II foe.
The visiting Panthers led by seven points less than four minutes into the game and didn't relinquish the lead until less than four minutes remained before halftime.
"We can talk about the stretch where we outscored them by 26, which was pretty good, or we can talk about the early and the end; that wasn't what we wanted to do," head coach Jamie Dixon said after the game.
The end of the game saw a 17-point Pitt lead cut to seven in the final two minutes of the game, but much of Kentucky Wesleyan's late surge was a result of the visitors using a lineup with three seniors and two juniors, while the home team countered with four true freshmen and a redshirt freshman.
Dixon said after the game that the lineup was "a mistake." He also said that Pitt will look to cut its rotation in the near future after 10 players logged at least 10 minutes Monday night.
"We're trying to work with a lot of guys, and that may be something that's holding us back right now," Dixon said.
Pitt was led by redshirt sophomore Lamar Patterson, who scored 22 points on 9-of-13 shooting and added five rebounds and three assists. Senior Ashton Gibbs scored 20 points; redshirt junior Travon Woodall had a game-high 11 assists, and redshirt sophomore Talib Zanna had a game-high 9 rebounds.
"We've had some good stretches and I like how some of our guys are playing," Dixon said. "I thought Lamar played well, I thought Talib played very well, rebounded well. I thought Travon played good for stretches and Ashton was very solid."
Kentucky Wesleyan, ranked preseason No. 15 nationally and No. 2 in the competitive Great Lakes Valley Conference, gave Pitt trouble on the perimeter, hitting just 26.3% from three but forcing Pitt's forwards to defend away from the basket. 12 of KWC's 19 three-point attempts came from post players; that caused issues for Pitt, particularly the Panthers' younger forwards, and Dixon said the players were not entirely prepared to defend that kind of attack.
Pitt's frontcourt did get a boost with the return of senior Nasir Robinson, who had surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee on October 14. He was expected to return for Pitt's season opener against Albany on Friday.
Robinson recorded six points and four rebounds in 10 minutes but left in the first half with a bloody nose. Dixon said that Robinson first suffered the bloody nose in practice on Sunday and that it bled for "about an hour." Then Robinson got hit again in Monday's game and his nose started bleeding again.